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Received fUnr. 
Accessions No. 








F.R.S., D.C.L., LL.D. 






All rights reserved 







INTRODUCTION ........ 1 

Beauty and Happiness ...... 3 

The Love of Nature ...... 5 

Enjoyment of Scenery ..,.,. 14 

Scenery of England ..... 19 

Foreign Scenery ,21 

The Aurora 33 

The Seasons 34 


ON ANIMAL LIFE ........ 39 

Love of Animals ....... 41 

Growth and Metamorphoses 43 

Rudimentary Organs 45 

Modifications 48 

Colour . . .50 

Communities of Animals ..... 57 

Ants 58 




ON ANIMAL LIFE continued ..... 71 

Freedom of Animals ...... 73 

Sleep ......... 78 

Senses ......... 84 

Sense of Direction ....... 93 

Number of Species ....... 96 

Importance of the Smaller Animals ... 97 

Size of Animals ....... 100 

Complexity of Animal Structure .... 101 

Length of Life ....... 102 

On Individuality ....... 104 

Animal Immortality ...... 112 


ON PLANT LIFE ........ 115 

Structure of Flowers , ...... 128 

Insects and Flowers ...... 134 

Past History of Flowers ...... 136 

Fruits and Seeds ....... 137 

Leaves ......... 138 

Aquatic Plants ....... 144 

On Hairs ........ 148 

Influence of Soil ....... 151 

On Seedlings ........ 152 

Sleep of Plants ....... 152 

Behaviour of Leaves in Rain ..... 155 

Mimicry . . . . . . . . .156 

Ants and Plants 156 



Insectivorous Plants 158 

Movements of Plants 159 

Imperfection of our Knowledge . . , .163 


WOODS AND FIELDS . . . .165 

Fairy Land 172 

Tropical Forests 179 

Structure of Trees 185 

Ages of Trees . . 188 

Meadows 192 

Downs . . - - -' - 194 



Alpine Flowers 205 

Mountain Scenery 206 

The Afterglow 213 

The Origin of Mountains ..... 214 

Glaciers ..... 227 

Swiss Mountains 232 

Volcanoes 236 

Origin of Volcanoes 243 


WATER 249 

Rivers and Witchcraft 251 



Water Plants 

. 252 

Water Animals 

. 253 

Origin of Rivers 

. 255 

The Course of Rivers 

. 256 


. 272 



. 277 

On the Directions of Rivers .... 

. 279 

The Conflicts and Adventures of Rivers 

. 301 

On Lakes 

. 312 

On the Configuration of Valleys 

. 323 



. 335 

The Sea Coast 

. 337 

Sea Life 

. 344 

The Ocean Depths 

. 351 

Coral Islands 

. 358 

The Southern Skies 

. 365 

The Poles 

. 367 



The Moon 

. 377 

The Sun 

. 382 

The Planets . ... 




Mercury 388 

Venus 390 

The Earth 391 

Mars 392 

The Minor Planets 393 

Jupiter 394 

Saturn 395 

Uranus . . - 396 

Neptune 397 

Origin of the Planetary System .... 398 

Comets 401 

Shooting Stars 406 

The Stars 410 

Nebulse , 425 



1. Larva of Chcerocampa porcellus 53 

2. Bougainvillea f ruticosa ; natural size. (After All- 

man) 107 

3. Do. do. magnified .... 108 

4. Do. do. Medusa-form . . .109 

5. Medusa aurita, and progressive stages of development. 

(After Steenstrup) 110 

6. White Dead-nettle 124 

7. Do. 125 

8. Do. 125 

9. Salvia 127 

10. Do 127 

11. Do 127 

12. Primrose 131 

13. Do. 131 

14. Arum 135 

15. Twig of Beech 140 

16. Arrangement of leaves in Acer platanoides . . 142 

17. Diagram to illustrate the formation of Mountain 

Chains 216 

18. Section across the Jura from Brenets to Neuchatel. 

(After Jaccard) 219 

19. Section from the Spitzen across the Brunnialp, and 

the Maderanerthal. (After Heim) . . . 221 



20. Glacier of the Blunilis Alp. (After Reclus) . . 228 

21. Cotopaxi. (After Judd) 237 

22. Lava Stream. (After Judd) 239 

23. Stromboli, viewed from the north-west, April 1874. 

(After Judd) 242 

24. Upper Valley of St. Gotthard 257 

25. Section of a river valley. The dotted line shows a 

slope or talus of debris 260 

26. Valley of the Rhone, with the waterfall of Sallenches, 

showing a talus of debris ..... 261 

27. Section across a valley. A, present river valley ; B, 

old river terrace 262 

28. Diagram of an Alpine valley, showing a river cone. 

Front view 263 

29. Diagram of an Alpine valley, showing a river cone. 

Lateral view 265 

30. Map of the Valais near Sion 266 

31. View in the Rhone Valley, showing a lateral cone . 267 

32. Do. showing the slope of a 
river cone 268 

33. Shore of the Lake of Geneva, near Vevey . . . 269 

34. View in the district of the Broads, Norfolk . .271 

35. Delta of the Po 273 

36. Do. Mississippi 274 

37. Map of the Lake District 281 

38. Section of the Weald of Kent, a, , Upper Creta- 

ceous strata, chiefly Chalk, forming the North and 
South Downs; 6, b, Escarpment of Lower Green- 
sand, with a valley between it and the Chalk ; 
c, c, Weald Clay, forming plains ; fZ, Hills formed 
of Hastings Sand and Clay. The Chalk, etc., once 
spread across the country, as shown in the dotted 
lines 283 

39. Map of the Weald of Kent 284 



40. Sketch Map of the Swiss Kivers 291 

41. Diagram in illustration of mountain structure . . 296 

42. Sketch Map of the Aar and its tributaries . . . 299 

43. River system round Chur, as it used to be . . . 308 

44. River system round Chur, as it is . . . . , 309 

45. River system of the Maloya 311 

46. Final slope of a river 317 

47. Do. do. with a lake . . . .318 

48. Diagrammatic section of a valley (exaggerated). E J?, 

rocky basis of a valley ; A A, sedimentary strata ; 

B, ordinary level of river ; (7, flood level . . 329 

49. Whitsunday Island. (After Darwin) . . . .359 

50. A group of Lunar volcanoes ; Maurolycus, Barocius, 

etc. (After Judd) 380 

51. Orbits of the inner Planets. (After Ball) . . .388 

52. Relative distances of the Planets from the Sun. (After 

Ball) 389 

53. Saturn, with the surrounding series of rings. (After 

Lockyer) 395 

54. The Parallactic Ellipse. (After Ball) . . .413 

55. Displacement of the hydrogen line in the spectrum of 

Rigel. (After Clarke) 416 


BURNHAM BEECHES ...... Frontispiece 

WINDSOR CASTLE. (From a drawing by 

J. Finnemore) .... To face page 13 

by Spooner and Co.) . . . " "145 


Kingsley) "179 



THE MER DE GLACE, MONT BLANC . . To face page 229 
RYDAL WATER. (From a photograph by 

Frith and Co., published by Spooner 

and Co.) "247 

WlNDERMERE " " 253 



GENEVA ....... " " 268 

THE LAND'S END. (From a photograph 
by Frith and Co., published by 
Spooner and Co.) .... "334 


QUARTER. (From a photograph by 

Prof. Draper) "371 



If any one gave you a few acres, you would say that you 
had received a benefit; can you deny that the boundless 
extent of the earth is a benefit? If any one gave you 
money, you would call that a benefit. God has buried 
countless masses of gold and silver in the earth. If a house 
were given you, bright with marble, its roof beautifully 
painted with colours and gilding, you would call it no small 
benefit. God has built for you a mansion that fears no fire 
or ruin . . . covered with a roof which glitters in one 
fashion by day, and in another by night. . . . Whence 
comes the breath you draw ; the light by which you 
perform the actions of your life? the blood by which your 
life is maintained? the meat by which your hunger is 
appeased? . . . The true God has planted, not a few oxen, 
but all the herds on their pastures throughout the world, 
and furnished food to all the flocks; he has ordained the 
alternation of summer and winter . . . has invented so 
many arts and varieties of voice, so many notes to make 
music. . . . We have implanted in us the seed of all ages, 
of all arts ; and God our Master brings forth our intellects 
from obscurity. SENECA. 




THE world we live in is a fairyland of 
exquisite beauty, our very existence is a 
miracle in itself, and yet few of us enjoy as 
we might, and none as yet appreciate fully, 
the beauties and wonders which surround us. 
The greatest traveller cannot hope even in a 
long life to visit more than a very small part 
of our earth, and even of that which is under 
our very eyes how little we see ! 

What we do see depends mainly on what 
we look for. When we turn our eyes to the 
sky, it is in most cases merely to see whether 
it is likely to rain. In the same field the 
farmer will notice the crop, geologists the 
fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colour- 
ing, sportsmen the cover for game. Though 



we may all look at the same things, it does 
not at all follow that we should see them. 

It is good, as Keble says, " to have our 
thoughts lift up to that world where all is 
beautiful and glorious," but it is well to 
realise also how much of this world is beauti- 
ful. It has, I know, been maintained, as for 
instance by Victor Hugo, that the general 
effect of beauty is to sadden. " Comme la 
vie de 1'homme, meme la plus prospere, est 
toujours au fond plus triste que gaie, le ciel 
sombre nous est harmonieux. Le ciel ecla- 
tant et joyeux nous est ironique. La Nature 
triste nous ressemble et nous console ; la 
Nature rayonnante, magnifique, superbe . , . 
a quelque chose d'accablant." l 

This seems to me, I confess, a morbid 
view. There are many no doubt on whom 
the effect of natural beauty is to intensify 
feeling, to deepen melancholy, as well as 
to raise the spirits. As Mrs. W. R. Greg 
in her memoir of her husband tells us : 
"His passionate love for nature, so amply 
fed by the beauty of the scenes around him, 

1 Choses l^ues. 


intensified the emotions, as all keen percep- 
tion of beauty does, but it did not add to 
their joyousness. We speak of the pleasure 
which nature and art and music give us ; 
what we really mean is that our whole be- 
ing is quickened by the uplifting of the veil. 
Something passes into us which makes our 
sorrows more sorrowful, our joys more joyful, 
our whole life more vivid. So it was with 
him. The long solitary wanderings over the 
hills, and the beautiful moonlight nights on 
the lake served to make the shadows seem 
darker that were brooding over his home." 

But surely to most of us Nature when 
sombre, or even gloomy, is soothing and con- 
soling ; when bright and beautiful, not only 
raises the spirits, but inspires and elevates 
our whole being 

Nature never did betray 
The heart that loved her ; 'tis her privilege, 
Through all the years of this our life, to lead 
From joy to joy : for she can so inform 
The mind that is within us, so impress 
With quietness and beauty, and so feed 
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues, 
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men, 


Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all 
The dreary intercourse of daily life, 
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb 
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold 
Is full of blessings. 1 

Kingsley speaks with enthusiasm of the 
heaths and moors round his home, " where 
I have so long enjoyed the wonders of na- 
ture ; never, I can honestly say, alone ; be- 
cause when man was not with me, I had 
companions in every bee, and flower and 
pebble ; and never idle, because I could not 
pass a swamp, or a tuft of heather, without 
finding in it a fairy tale of which I could 
but decipher here and there a line or two, 
arid yet found them more interesting than all 
the books, save one, which were ever written 
upon earth." 

Those who love Nature can never- be dull. 
They may have other temptations ; but at 
least they will run no risk of being beguiled, 
by ennui, idleness, or want of occupation, 
" to buy the merry madness of an hour with 
the long penitence of after time." The love 
of Nature, again, helps us greatly to keep 

1 Wordsworth. 


ourselves free from those mean and petty cares 
which interfere so much Avith calm and peace 
of mind. It turns "every ordinary walk 
into a morning or evening sacrifice," and 
brightens life until it becomes almost like a 
fairy tale. 

In the romances of the Middle Ages we read 
of knights who loved, and were loved by, 
Nature spirits, of Sir Launfal and the Fairy 
Tryamour, who furnished him with many 
good things, including a magic purse, in 

As oft as thou puttest thy hand therein 
A mark of gold thou shalt iwinne, 

as well as protection from the main dangers 
of life. Such times have passed away, but 
better ones have come. It is not now merely 
the few, who are so favoured. All those 
who love Nature she loves in return, and 
will richly reward, not perhaps with the 
good things, as they are commonly called, 
but with the best things, of this world ; not 
with money and titles, horses and carriages, 
but with bright and happy thoughts, content- 
ment and peace of mind. 


Happy indeed is the naturalist : to him 
the seasons come round like old friends ; to 
him the birds sing : as he walks along, the 
flowers stretch out from the hedges, or look 
up from the ground, and as each year fades 
away, he looks back on a fresh store of 
happy memories. 

Though we can never " remount the river 
of our years," he who loves Nature is always 
young. But what is the love of Nature ? 
Some seem to think they show a love of 
flowers by gathering them. How often one 
finds a bunch of withered blossoms on the 
roadside, plucked only to be thrown away ! 
Is this love of Nature ? It is, on the con- 
trary, a wicked waste, for a waste of beauty 
is almost the worst waste of all. 

If we could imagine a day prolonged for 
a lifetime, or nearly so, and that sunrise and 
sunset were rare events which happened but 
a -few times to each of us, we should certainly 
be entranced by the beauty of the morning 
and evening tints. The golden rays of the 
morning are a fortune in themselves, but we 
too often overlook the loveliness of Nature, 


because it is constantly before us. For "the 
senseless folk/' says King Alfred, 

is far more struck 
At things it seldom sees. 

" Well," says Cicero, " did Aristotle observe, 
6 If there were men whose habitations had 
been always underground, in great and com- 
modious houses, adorned with statues and 
pictures, furnished with everything which 
they who are reputed happy abound with ; and 
if, without stirring from thence, they should 
be informed of a certain divine power and 
majesty, and, after some time, the earth should 
open, and they should quit their dark abode to 
come to us ; where they should immediately 
behold the earth, the seas, the heavens ; should 
consider the vast extent of the clouds and 
force of the winds ; should see the sun, and 
observe his grandeur and beauty, and also his 
creative power, inasmuch as day is occasioned 
by the diffusion of his light through the sky ; 
and when night has obscured the earth, they 
should contemplate the heavens bespangled 
and adorned with stars ; the surprising variety 


of the moon, in her increase and wane ; the 
rising and setting of all the stars, and the 
inviolable regularity of their courses ; when," 
says he, ' they should see these things, they 
would undoubtedly conclude that there are 
Gods, and that these are their mighty 
works.' ' 

Is my life vulgar, my fate mean, 

Which on such golden memories can lean ? 2 

At the same time the change which has 
taken place in the character of our religion 
has in one respect weakened the hold which 
Nature has upon our feelings. To the 
Greeks to our own ancestors, every River 
or Mountain or Forest had not only its own 
special Deity, but in some sense was itself 
instinct with life. They were not only 
peopled by Nymphs and Fauns, Elves and 
Kelpies, were not only the favourite abodes 
of Water, Forest, or Mountain Spirits, but 
they had a conscious existence of their own. 

In the Middle Ages indeed, these spirits 

1 Cicero, De Natura Deorum. 

2 Thoreau. 


were regarded as often mischievous, and apt 
to take offence ; sometimes as essentially 
malevolent- even the most beautiful, like 
the Venus of Tannhauser, being often on that 
very account all the more dangerous ; while 
the Mountains and Forests, the Lakes and 
Seas, were the abodes of hideous ghosts and 
horrible monsters, of Giants and Ogres, Sor- 
cerers and Demons. These fears, though 
vague, were none the less extreme, and the 
judicial records of the Middle Ages furnish 
only too conclusive evidence that they were 
a terrible reality. The light of Science has 
now happily dispelled these fearful nightmares. 
Unfortunately, however, as men have mul- 
tiplied, their energies have hitherto tended, 
not to beautify, but to mar. Forests have 
been cut down, and replaced by flat fields in 
geometrical squares, or on the continent by 
narrow strips. Here and there indeed we 
meet with oases, in which beauty has not 
been sacrificed to profit, and it is then happily 
found that not only is there no loss, but the 
earth seems to reward even more richly those 
who treat her with love and respect. 


Scarcely any part of the world affords so 
great a variety in so small an area as our own 
island. Commencing in the south, we have 
first the blue sea itself, the pebbly beaches, 
the white chalk cliffs of Kent, the tinted 
sands of Alurn Bay, the Red Sandstone of 
Devonshire, Granite and Gneiss in Cornwall : 
inland we have the chalk Downs and clear 
streams, the well-wooded weald and the rich 
hop gardens ; farther westwards the undu- 
lating gravelly hills, and still farther the 
granite tors : in the centre of England we 
have to the east the Norfolk Broads and 
the Fens ; then the fertile Midlands, the 
cornfields, rich meadows, and large oxen ; and 
to the west the Welsh mountains ; farther 
north the Yorkshire Wolds, the Lancashire 
hills, the Lakes of Westmoreland ; lastly, the 
swelling hills, bleak moors, and picturesque 
castles of Northumberland and Cumberland. 

There are of course far larger rivers, but 
perhaps none lovelier than 

The crystal Thamis wont to glide 

In silver channel, down along the lee, 1 

1 Spenser. 


by lawns and parks, meadows and wooded 
banks, dotted with country houses and crowned 
by Windsor Castle itself (see Frontispiece). 
By many Scotland is considered even more 

And yet too many of us see nothing in the 
fields but sacks of wheat, in the meadows but 
trusses of hay, and in woods but planks for 
houses, or cover for game. Even from this 
more prosaic point of view, how much there 
is to wonder at and admire, in the wonderful 
chemistry which changes grass and leaves, 
flowers and seeds, into bread and milk, eggs 
and cream, butter and honey ! 

Almost everything, says Hamerton, "that 
the Peasant does, is lifted above vulgarity 
by ancient, and often sacred, associations." 
There is, indeed, hardly any business or occu- 
pation with reference to which the same might 
not be said. The triviality or vulgarity does 
not depend on what we do, but on the spirit 
in which it is done. Not only the regular pro- 
fessions, but every useful occupation in life, 
however humble, is honourable in itself, and 
may be pursued with dignity and peace. 


Working in this spirit we have also the sat- 
isfaction of feeling that, as in some mountain 
track every one who takes the right path, 
seems to make the way clearer for those who 
follow ; so may we also raise the profession 
we adopt, and smooth the way for those who 
come after us. But, even for those who are 
not Agriculturists, it must be admitted that 
the country has special charms. One perhaps 
is the continual change. Every week brings 
some fresh leaf or flower, bird or insect. 
Every month again has its own charms and 
beauty. We sit quietly at home and Nature 
decks herself for us. 

In truth we all love change. Some think 
they do not care for it, but I doubt if they 
know themselves. 

"Not," said Jefferies, "for many years 
was I able to see why I went the same round 
and did not care for change. I do not want 
change : I want the same old and loved things, 
the same wild flowers, the same trees and soft 
ash-green; the turtle-doves, the blackbirds, 
the coloured yellow-hammer sing, sing, sing- 
ing so long as there is light to cast a shadow 


on the dial, for such is the measure of his 
song, and I want them in the same place. 
Let me find them morning after morning, 
the starry-white petals radiating, striving 
upwards up to their ideal. Let me see the 
idle shadows resting on the white dust ; let 
me hear the humble-bees, and stay to look 
down on the yellow dandelion disk. Let me 
see the very thistles opening their great 
crowns I should miss the thistles ; the reed 
grasses hiding the moor-hen ; the bryony 
bine, at first crudely ambitious and lifted by 
force of youthful sap straight above the 
hedgerow to sink of its weight presently and 
progress with crafty tendrils ; swifts shot 
through the air with outstretched wings like 
crescent-headed shaftless arrows darted from 
the clouds ; the chaffinch with a feather in 
her bill ; all the living staircase of the spring, 
step by step, upwards to the great gallery of 
the summer, let me watch the same succession 
year by year." 

After all then he did enjoy the change 
and the succession. 

Kingsley again in his charming prose 


idyll "My Winter Garden" tries to persuade 
himself that he was glad he had never 
travelled, " having never yet actually got to 
Paris." Monotony, he says, " is pleasant in 
itself; morally pleasant, and morally useful. 
Marriage is monotonous ; but there is much, 
I trust, to be said in favour of holy wedlock. 
Living in the same house is monotonous ; 
but three removes, say the wise, are as bad 
as a fire. Locomotion is regarded as an evil 
by our Litany. The Litany, as usual, is 
right. ' Those who travel by land or sea ' are 
to be objects of our pity and our prayers ; 
and I do pity them. I delight in that same 
monotony. It saves curiosity, anxiety, ex- 
citement, disappointment, and a host of bad 

But even as he writes one can see that 
he does not convince himself. Possibly, he 
admits, " after all, the grapes are sour " ; and 
when some years after he did travel, how 
happy he was ! At last, he says, trium- 
phantly, " At last we too are crossing the 
Atlantic. At last the dream of forty years, 
please God, would be fulfilled, and I should 


see (and happily not alone), the West Indies 
and the Spanish Main. From childhood I 
had studied their Natural History, their 
Charts, their Romances ; and now, at last, I 
was about to compare books with facts, and 
judge for myself of the reported wonders of 
the Earthly Paradise." 

No doubt there is much to see everywhere. 
The Poet and the Naturalist find " tropical 
forests in every square foot of turf." It may 
even be better, and especially for the more 
sensitive natures, to live mostly in quiet 
scenery, among fields and hedgerows, woods 
and downs ; but it is surely good for every 
one, from time to time, to refresh and 
strengthen both mind and body by a spell of 
Sea air or Mountain beauty. 

On the other hand we are told, and told 
of course with truth, that though mountains 
may be the cathedrals of Nature, they are 
generally remote from centres of population ; 
that our great cities are grimy, dark, and 
ugly ; that factories are creeping over several 
of our counties, blighting them into building 
ground, replacing trees by chimneys, and 


destroying almost every vestige of natural 

But if this be true, is it not all the more 
desirable that our people should have access 
to pictures and books, which may in some 
small degree, at any rate, replace what they 
have thus unfortunately lost ? We cannot all 
travel ; and even those who can, are able to 
see but a small part of the world. More- 
over, though no one who has once seen, can 
ever forget, the Alps, the Swiss lakes, or the 
Riviera, still the recollection becomes less 
vivid as years roll on, and it is pleasant, 
from time to time, to be reminded of their 

There is one other advantage not less 
important. We sometimes speak x as if to 
visit a country, and to see it, were the same 
thing. But this is not so. It is not every 
one who can see Switzerland like a Ruskin 
or a Tyndall. Their beautiful descriptions 
of mountain scenery depend less on their 
mastery of the English language, great as that 
is, than on their power of seeing what is 
before them. It has been to me therefore a 


matter of much interest to know which 
aspects of Nature have given the greatest 
pleasure to, or have most impressed, those 
who, either from wide experience or from 
their love of Nature, may be considered best 
able to judge. I will begin with an English 
scene from Kingsley. He is describing his 
return from a day's trout-fishing : 

"What shall we see," he says, " as we look 
across the broad, still, clear river, where the 
great dark trout sail to and fro lazily in the 
sun? White chalk fields above, quivering 
hazy in the heat. A park full of merry hay- 
makers ; gay red and blue waggons ; stalwart 
horses switching off the flies ; dark avenues 
of tall elms ; groups of abele, 6 tossing their 
whispering silver to the sun ' ; and amid them 
the house, a great square red-brick mass, 
made light and cheerful though by quoins 
and windows of white Sarsden stone, with 
high peaked French roofs, broken by louvres 
and dormers, haunted by a thousand swallows 
and starlings. Old walled gardens, gay with 
flowers, shall stretch right and left. Clipt 
yew alleys shall wander away into mysterious 


glooms, and out of their black arches shall 
come tripping children, like white fairies, to 
laugh and talk with the girl who lies dream- 
ing and reading in the hammock there, beneath 
the black velvet canopy of the great cedar 
tree, like some fair tropic flower hanging from 
its boughs ; and we will sit down, and eat 
and drink among the burdock leaves, and 
then watch the quiet house, and lawn, and 
flowers, and fair human creatures, and shining 
water, all sleeping breathless in the glorious 
light beneath the glorious blue, till we doze 
off, lulled by the murmur of a thousand in- 
sects, and the rich minstrelsy of nightingale 
and blackcap, thrush and dove. 

" Peaceful, graceful, complete English coun- 
try life and country houses ; everywhere fin- 
ish and polish ; Nature perfected by the wealth 
and art of peaceful centuries ! Why should 
I exchange you, even for the sight of all the 

Though Jefferies was unfortunately never 
able to travel, few men have loved Nature 
more devotedly, and speaking of his own 
home he expresses his opinion that : " Of all 


sweet things there is none so sweet as fresh 
air one great flower it is, drawn round about; 
over, and enclosing us ? like Aphrodite's arms ; 
as if the dome of the sky were a bell-flower 
drooping down over us, and the magical 
essence of it filling all the room of the earth. 
Sweetest of all things is wild-flower air. Full 
of their ideal the starry flowers strained up- 
wards on the bank, striving to keep above 
the rude grasses that push by them ; genius 
has ever had such a struggle. The plain road 
was made beautiful by the many thoughts it 
gave. I came every morning to stay by the 
star-lit bank." 

Passing to countries across the ocean, Hum- 
boldt tells us that : " If I might be allowed to 
abandon myself to the recollection of my own 
distant travels, I would instance, amongst the 
most striking scenes of nature, the calm sub- 
limity of a tropical night, when the stars, not 
sparkling, as in our northern skies, shed their 
soft and planetary light over the gently heav- 
ing ocean ; or I would recall the deep valleys 
of the Cordilleras, where the tall and slender 
palms pierce the leafy veil around them, and 


waving on high their feathery and arrow-like 
branches, form, as it were, ' a forest above a 
forest ' ; or I would describe the summit of 
the Peak of Teneriffe, when a horizon layer 
of clouds, dazzling in whiteness, has separated 
the cone of cinders from the plain below, and 
suddenly the ascending current pierces the 
cloudy veil, so that the eye of the traveller 
may range from the brink of the crater, along 
the vine-clad slopes of Orotava, to the orange 
gardens and banana groves that skirt the 
shore. In scenes like these, it is not the 
peaceful charm uniformly spread over the face 
of nature that moves the heart, but rather the 
peculiar physiognomy and conformation of the 
land, the features of the landscape, the ever- 
varying outline of the clouds, and their blend- 
ing with the horizon of the sea, whether it 
lies spread before us like a smooth and shining 
mirror, or is dimly seen through the morning 
mist. All that the senses can but imperfectly 
comprehend, all that is most awful in such 
romantic scenes of nature, may become a 
source of enjoyment to man, by opening a wide 
field to the creative power of his imagination. 


Impressions change with the varying move- 
ments of the mind, and we are led by a happy 
illusion to believe that we receive from the ex- 
ternal world that with which we have our- 
selves invested it." 

Hurnboldt also singles out for especial praise 
the following description given of Tahiti by 
Darwin l : 

" The land capable of cultivation is scarcely 
in any part more than a fringe of low alluvial 
soil, accumulated round the base of mountains, 
and protected from the waves of the sea by a 
coral reef, which encircles at a distance the 
entire line of coast. The reef is broken in sev- 
eral parts so that ships can pass through, and 
the lake of smooth water within, thus affords 
a safe harbour, as well as a channel for the 
native canoes. The low land which comes 
down to the beach of coral sand is covered by 
the most beautiful productions of the inter- 
tropical regions. In the midst of bananas, 
orange, cocoa-nut, and breadfruit trees, spots 
are cleared where yams, sweet potatoes, sugar- 
cane, and pine-apples are cultivated. Even 

1 Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle. 


the brushwood is a fruit tree, namely, the 
guava, which from its abundance is as noxious 
as a weed. In Brazil I have often admired 
the contrast of varied beauty in the banana, 
palm, and orange tree; here we have in addi- 
tion the breadfruit tree, conspicuous from its 
large, gloss}^, and deeply digitated leaf. It is 
admirable to behold groves of a tree, sending 
forth its branches with the force of an Eng- 
lish Oak, loaded with large and most nutri- 
tious fruit. However little on most occasions 
utility explains the delight received from any 
fine prospect, in this case it cannot fail to en- 
ter as an element in the feeling. The little 
winding paths, cool from the surrounding 
shade, led to the scattered houses ; and the 
owners of these everywhere gave us a cheerful 
and most hospitable reception." 

Darwin himself has told us, after going 
round the world that " in calling up images of 
the past, I find the plains of Patagonia fre- 
quently cross before my eyes ; yet these plains 
are pronounced by all to be most wretched 
and useless. They are characterised only by 
negative possessions ; without habitations, 


without water, without trees, without moun- 
tains, they support only a few dwarf plants. 
Why then and the case is not peculiar to 
myself have these arid wastes taken so firm 
possession of my mind ? Why have not the 
still more level, the greener and more fertile 
pampas, which are serviceable to mankind, 
produced an equal impression ? I can scarcely 
analyse these feelings, but it must be partly 
owing to the free scope given to the imagina- 
tion. The plains of Patagonia are boundless, 
for they are scarcely practicable, and hence 
unknown ; they bear the stamp of having thus 
lasted for ages, and there appears no limit to 
their duration through future time. If, as 
the ancients supposed, the flat earth was sur- 
rounded by an impassable breadth of water, 
or by deserts heated to an intolerable excess, 
who would not look at these last boundaries 
to man's knowledge with deep but ill-de- 
fined sensations ? " 

Hamerton, whose wide experience and 
artistic power make his opinion especially 
important, says : 

" I know nothing in the visible world that 


combines splendour and purity so perfectly as 
a great mountain entirely covered with frozen 
snow and reflected in the vast mirror of a 
lake. As the sun declines, its thousand 
shadows lengthen, pure as the cold green 
azure in the depth of a glacier's crevasse, and 
the illuminated snow takes first the tender 
colour of a white rose, and then the flush of a 
red one, and the sky turns to a pale malachite 
green, till the rare strange vision fades into 
ghastly gray, but leaves with you a permanent 
recollection of its too transient beauty." l 

Wallace especially, and very justly, praises 
the description of tropical forest scenery given 
by Belt in his charming Naturalist in Nica- 
ragua : 

" On each side of the road great trees 
towered up, carrying their crowns out of sight 
amongst a canopy of foliage, and with lianas 
hanging from nearly every bough, and passing 
from tree to tree, entangling the giants in a 
great network of coiling cables. Sometimes 
a tree appears covered with beautiful flowers 
which do not belong to it, but to one of the 

1 Hainerton's Landscape. 


lianas that twines through its branches and 
sends down great rope-like stems to the 
ground. Climbing ferns and vanilla cling to 
the trunks, and a thousand epiphytes perch 
themselves on the branches. Amongst these 
are large arums that send down long aerial 
roots, tough and strong, and universally used 
instead of cordage by the natives. Amongst 
the undergrowth several small species of 
palms, varying in height from two to fifteen 
feet, are common ; and now and then magnif- 
icent tree ferns send off their feathery crowns 
twenty feet from the ground to delight the 
sight by their graceful elegance. Great broad- 
leaved heliconias, leathery melastomse, and 
succulent-stemmed, lop-sided leaved and flesh- 
coloured begonias are abundant, and typical of 
tropical American forests ; but not less so are 
the cecropia trees, with their white stems and 
large palmated leaves standing up like great 
candelabra. Sometimes the ground is carpeted 
with large flowers, yellow, pink, or white, 
that have fallen from some invisible tree-top 
above ; or the air is filled with a delicious 
perfume, the source of which one seeks around 


in vain, for the flowers that cause it are far 
overhead out of sight, lost in the great over- 
shadowing crown of verdure." 

" But," he adds, " the uniformity of climate 
which has led to this rich luxuriance and end- 
less variety of vegetation is also the cause of 
a monotony that in time becomes oppressive." 
To quote the words of Mr. Belt : " Unknown 
are the autumn tints, the bright browns and 
yellows of English woods ; much less the crim- 
sons, purples, and yellows of Canada, where 
the dying foliage rivals, nay, excels, the ex- 
piring dolphin in splendour. Unknown the 
cold sleep of winter ; unknown the lovely 
awakening of vegetation at the first gentle 
touch of spring. A ceaseless round of ever- 
active life weaves the fairest scenery of the 
tropics into one monotonous whole, of which 
the component parts exhibit in detail untold 
variety of beauty." 

Siberia is no doubt as a rule somewhat 
severe and inhospitable, but M. Patrin men- 
tions with enthusiasm how one day descend- 
ing from the frozen summits of the Altai, he 
came suddenly on a view of the plain of the 


Obi the most beautiful spectacle, he says, 
which he had ever witnessed. Behind him 
were barren rocks and the snows of winter, in 
front a great plain, not indeed entirely green, 
or green only in places, and for the rest 
covered by three flowers, the purple Siberian 
Iris, the golden Hemerocallis, and the silvery 
Narcissus green, purple, gold, and white, 
as far as the eye could reach. 

Wallace tells us that he himself has de- 
rived the keenest enjoyment from his sense 
of colour : 

" The heavenly blue of the firmament, the 
glowing tints of sunset, the exquisite purity 
of the snowy mountains, and the endless 
shades of green presented by the verdure-clad 
surface of the earth, are a never -failing 
source of pleasure to all who enjoy the ines- 
timable gift of sight. Yet these constitute, 
as it were, but the frame and background of 
a marvellous and ever-changing picture. In 
contrast with these broad and soothing tints, 
we have presented to us in the vegetable and 
animal worlds an infinite variety of objects 
adorned with the most beautiful and most 


varied hues. Flowers, insects, and birds are 
the organisms most generally ornamented in 
this way ; and their symmetry of form, their 
variety of structure, and the lavish abun- 
dance with which they clothe and enliven 
the earth, cause them to be objects of 
universal admiration. The relation of this 
wealth of colour to our mental and moral 
nature is indisputable. The child and the 
savage alike admire the gay tints of flowers, 
birds, and insects ; while to many of us their 
contemplation brings a solace and enjoyment 
which is both intellectually and morally 
beneficial. It can then hardly excite surprise 
that this relation was long thought to afford a 
sufficient explanation of the phenomena of col- 
our in nature; and although the fact that 

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, 
And waste its sweetness on the desert air, 

might seem to throw some doubt on the suffi- 
ciency of the explanation, the answer was 
easy, that in the progress of discovery man 
would, sooner or later, find out and enjoy 
every beauty that the hidden recesses of the 
earth have in store for him." 


Professor Colvin speaks with special admi- 
ration of Greek scenery : 

" In other climates, it is only in particular 
states of the weather that the remote ever 
seems so close, and then with an effect which 
is sharp and hard as well as clear-; here the 
clearness is soft ; nothing cuts or glitters, seen 
through that magic distance ; the air has not 
only a new transparency so that you can see 
farther into it than elsewhere, but a new 
quality, like some crystal of an unknown 
water, so that to see into it is greater glory." 
Speaking of the ranges and promontories of 
sterile limestone, the same writer observes 
that their colours are as austere and delicate 
as the forms. " If here the scar of some old 
quarry throws a stain, or there the clinging of 
some thin leafage spreads a bloom, the stain 
is of precious gold, and the bloom of silver. 
Between the blue of the sky and the tenfold 
blue of the sea these bare ranges seem, be- 
neath that daylight, to present a whole sys- 
tem of noble colour flung abroad over perfect 
forms. And wherever, in the general sterility, 
you find a little moderate verdure a little 


moist grass, a cluster of cypresses or when- 
ever your eye lights upon the one wood of the 
district, the long olive grove of the Cephissus, 
you are struck with a sudden sense of richness, 
and feel as if the splendours of the tropics 
would be nothing to this." 

Most travellers have been fascinated by the 
beauty of night in the tropics. Our even- 
ings no doubt are often delicious also, though 
the mild climate we enjoy is partly due to the 
sky being so often overcast. In parts of the 
tropics, however, the air is calm and cloud- 
less throughout nearly the whole of the year. 
There is no dew, and the inhabitants sleep on 
the house-tops, in full view of the brightness 
of the stars and the beauty of the sk}^ which 
is almost indescribable. 

" II faisait," says Bernardin de St. Pierre of 
such a scene, " une de ces nuits delicieuses, si 
communes entre les tropiques, et dont le plus 
abile pinceau ne rendrait pas le beaute. La 
lune paraissait au milieu du firmament, en- 
touree d'un rideau de images, que ses rayons 
dissipaient par degres. Sa lumiere se repan- 
dait insensiblement sur les montagnes de 1'ile 


et sur leurs pitons, qui brillaient d'un vert 
argente. Les vents retenaient leurs haleines. 
On entendait dans les bois, au fond des vallees, 
au haut des rochers, de petits cris, de doux mur- 
mures d'oiseaux, qui se caressaient dans leurs 
nids, rejouis par la clarte de la nuit et la tran- 
quillite de 1'air. Tous, jusqu'aux insectes, 
bruissaient sous 1'herbe. Les etoiles etince- 
laient au ciel ? et se reflechissaient au sein de 
la mer, qui repetait leurs images tremblantes." 
In the Arctic and Antarctic regions the 
nights are often made quite gorgeous by the 
Northern Lights or Aurora borealis, and 
the corresponding appearance in the Southern 
hemisphere. The Aurora borealis generally 
begins towards evening, and first appears as a 
faint glimmer in the north, like the approach 
of dawn. Gradually a curve of light spreads 
like an immense arch of yellowish-white hue, 
which gains rapidly in brilliancy, flashes and 
vibrates like a flame in the wind. Often two 
or even three arches appear one over the 
other. After a while coloured rays dart 
upwards in divergent pencils, often green 
below, yellow in the centre, and crimson 


above, while it is said that sometimes almost 
black, or at least very dark violet, rays are 
interspersed among the rings of* light, and 
heighten their effect by contrast. Sometimes 
the two ends of the arch seem to rise off the 
horizon, and the whole sheet of light throbs 
and undulates like a fringed curtain of light ; 
sometimes the sheaves of rays unite into an 
immense cupola ; while at others the separate 
rays seem alternately lit and extinguished. 
Gradually the light flickers and fades away, 
and has generally disappeared before the first 
glimpse of dawn. 

We seldom see the Aurora in the south of 
England, but we must not complain ; our 
winters are mild, and every month has its 
own charm and beauty. 

In January we have the lengthening days. 

" February " the first butterfly. 

" March " the opening buds. 

" April " the young leaves and 

spring flowers. 

" May " the song of birds. 

" June " the sweet new-mown 



In July we have the summer flowers. 

" August the golden grain. 

" September " the fruit. 

" October the autumn tints. 

" November " the hoar frost on trees 

and the pure snow. 

" December last not least, the holi- 

days of Christmas, 
and the bright fire- 

It is well to begin the year in January, 
for we have then before us all the hope of 

Oh wind, 
If winter comes, can spring be long behind? 1 

Spring seems to revive us all. In the Song 
of Solomon 

My beloved spake, and said unto me, 

Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 

For, lo, the winter is past, 

The rain is over and gone ; 

The flowers appear on the earth ; 

The time of the singing of birds is come, 

The voice of the turtle is heard in our land, 

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, 

And the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. 

1 Shelley. 


" But indeed there are days," says Emer- 
son, " which occur in this climate, at almost 
any season of the year, wherein the world 
reaches its perfection, when the air, the 
heavenly bodies, and the earth make a har- 
mony, as if nature would indulge her off- 
spring. ... These halcyon days may be 
looked for with a little more assurance in 
that pure October weather, which we distin- 
guish by the name of the Indian summer. 
The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the 
broad hills and warm wide fields. To have 
lived through all its sunny hours, seems 
longevity enough." Yet does not the very 
name of Indian summer imply the superi- 
ority of the summer itself, the real, the 
true summer, " when the young corn is burst- 
ing into ear ; the awned heads of rye, wheat, 
and barley, and the nodding panicles of oats, 
shoot from their green and glaucous stems, in 
broad, level, and waving expanses of present 
beauty and future promise. The very waters 
are strewn with flowers : the buck-bean, the 
water-violet, the elegant flowering rush, and 
the queen of the waters, the pure and splendid 


white lily, invest every stream and lonely 
mere with grace." l 

For our greater power of perceiving, and 
therefore of enjoying Nature, we are greatly 
indebted to Science. Over and above what is 
visible to the unaided eye, the two magic 
tubes, the telescope and microscope, have re- 
vealed to us, at least partially, the infinitely 
great and the infinitely little. 

Science, our Fairy Godmother, will, unless 
we perversely reject her help, and refuse her 
gifts, so richly endow us, that fewer hours 
of labour will serve to supply us with the 
material necessaries of life, leaving us more 
time to ourselves, more leisure to enjoy all 
that makes life best worth living. 

Even now we all have some leisure, and for 
it we cannot be too grateful. 

"If any one," says Seneca, "gave you a 
few acres, you would say that you had re- 
ceived a benefit ; can you deny that the 
boundless extent of the earth is a benefit ? If 
a house were given you, bright with marble, 
its roof beautifully painted with colours and 

1 Hewitt's Book of the Seasons. 


gilding, you would call it no small benefit. 
God has built for you a mansion that fears 
no fire or ruin . . . covered with a roof which 
glitters in one fashion by day, and in another 
by night. Whence comes the breath which 
you draw ; the light by which you perform 
the actions of your life ? the blood by which 
your life is maintained ? the meat by which 
your hunger is appeased ? . . . The true God 
has planted, not a few oxen, but all the herds 
on their pastures throughout the world, and 
furnished food to all the flocks ; he has or- 
dained the alternation of summer and winter 
... he has invented so many arts and varie- 
ties of voice, so many notes to make music. 
. . . We have implanted in us the seeds of 
all ages, of all arts ; and God our Master 
brings forth our intellects from obscurity." l 

1 Seneca, De Beneficiis. 



If thy heart be right, then will every creature be to thee 
a mirror of life, and a book of holy doctrine. 




THERE is no species of animal or plant which 
would not well repay, I will not say merely 
the study of a day, but even the devotion of 
a lifetime. Their form and structure, develop- 
ment and habits, geographical distribution, 
relation to other living beings, and past 
history, constitute an inexhaustible study. 

When we consider how much we owe to 
the Dog, Man's faithful friend, to the noble 
Horse, the patient Ox, the Cow, the Sheep, 
and our other domestic animals, we cannot 
be too grateful to them ; and if we cannot, 
like some ancient nations, actually worship 
them, we have perhaps fallen into the other 
extreme, underrate the sacredness of animal 
life, and treat them too much like mere 



Some species, however, are no doubt more 
interesting than others, especially perhaps 
those which live together in true communi- 
ties, and which offer so many traits some 
sad, some comical, and all interesting, which 
reproduce more or less closely the circum- 
stances of our own life. 

The modes of animal life are almost in- 
finitely diversified ; some live on land, some 
in water ; of those which are aquatic some 
dwell in rivers, some in lakes or pools, some 
on the sea-shore, others in the depths of the 
ocean. Some burrow in the ground, some 
find their home in the air. Some live in the 
Arctic regions, some in the burning deserts ; 
one little beetle (Hydrobius) in the thermal 
waters of Hammam-Meskoutin, at a tempera- 
ture of 130. As to food, some are carnivor- 
ous and wage open war ; some, more insidious, 
attack their victims from within ; others feed 
on vegetable food, on leaves or wood, on seeds 
or fruits ; in fact, there is scarcely an animal 
or vegetable substance which is not the special 
and favourite food of one or more species. 
Hence to adapt them to these various require- 


ments we find the utmost differences of form 
and size and structure. Even the same in- 
dividual often goes through great changes. 


The development, indeed, of an animal 
from birth to maturity is no mere question 
of growth. The metamorphoses of Insects 
have long excited the wonder and admiration 
of all lovers of nature. They depend to a 
great extent on the fact that the little 
creatures quit the egg at an early stage of 
development, and lead a different life, so 
that the external forces acting on them, 
are very different from those by which they 
are affected when they arrive at maturity. A 
remarkable case is that of certain Beetles 
which are parasitic on Solitary Bees. The 
young lava is very active, with six strong 
legs. It conceals itself in some flower, and 
when the Bee comes in search of honey, leaps 
upon her, but is so minute as not to be per- 
ceived. The Bee constructs her cell, stores it 


with honey, and lays her egg. At that mo- 
ment the little larva quits the Bee and jumps 
on to the egg, which she proceeds gradually 
to devour. Having finished the egg, she 
attacks the honey; but under these circum- 
stances the activity which was at first so 
necessary has become useless ; the legs which 
did such good service are no longer required ; 
and the active slim larva changes into a white 
fleshy grub, which floats comfortably in the 
honey with its mouth just below the surface. 

Even in the same group we may find great 
differences. For instance, in the family of 
Insects to which Bees and Wasps belong, 
some have grub larvae, such as the Bee and 
Ant ; some have larvae like caterpillars, such 
as the Sawflies; and there is a group of 
minute forms the larvse of which live inside 
the eggs of other insects, and present very 
remarkable and abnormal forms. 

These differences depend mainly on the 
mode of life and the character of the food. 



Such modifications may be called adaptive, 
but there are others of a different origin 
that have reference to the changes which 
the race has passed through in bygone ages. 
In fact the great majority of animals do go 
through metamorphoses (many of them as 
remarkable, though not so familiar as those 
of insects), but in many cases they are passed 
through within the egg and thus escape 
popular observation. Naturalists who accept 
the theory of evolution, consider that the 
development of each individual represents to 
a certain extent that which the species has 
itself gone through in the lapse of ages ; that 
every individual contains within itself, so to 
say, a history of the race. Thus the rudi- 
mentary teeth of Cows, Sheep, Whales, etc. 
(which never emerge from their sockets), the 
rudimentary toes of many mammals, the hind 
legs of Whales and of the Boa-constrictor, 
which are imbedded in the flesh, the rudi- 
mentary collar-bone of the Dog, etc., are in- 


dications of descent from ancestors in which 
these organs were fully developed. Again, 
though used for such different purposes, the 
paddle of a Whale, the leg of a Horse and of 
a Mole, the wing of a Bird or a Bat, and the 
arm of a Man, are all constructed on the same 
model, include corresponding bones, and are 
similarly arranged. The long neck of the 
Giraffe, and the short one of the Whale (if 
neck it can be called), contain the same 
number of vertebrae. 

Even after birth the young of allied species 
resemble one another much more than the 
mature forms. The stripes on the young 
Lion, the spots on the young Blackbird, are 
well-known cases; and we find the same law 
prevalent among the lower animals, as, for 
instance, among Insects and Crustacea. The 
Lobster, Crab, Shrimp, and Barnacle are very 
unlike when full grown, but in their young 
stages go through essentially similar metamor- 

No animal is perhaps in this respect more 
interesting than the Horse. The skull of a 
Horse and that of a Man, though differing so 


much, are, says Flower, 1 " composed of exactly 
the same number of bones, having the same 
general arrangement and relation to each 
other. Not only the individual bones, but 
every ridge and surface for the attachment of 
muscles, and every hole for the passage of 
artery or nerve, seen in the one can be traced 
in the other." It is often said that the 
Horse presents a remarkable peculiarity in 
that the canine teeth grow but once. There 
are, however, in most Horses certain spicules 
or minute points which are shed before the 
appearance of the permanent canines, and 
which are probably the last remnants of the 
true milk canines. 

The foot is reduced to a single toe, repre- 
senting the third digit, but the second and 
fourth, though rudimentary, are represented 
by the splint bones ; while the foot also con- 
tains traces of several muscles, originally 
belonging to the toes which have now disap- 
peared, and which " linger as it were behind, 
with new relations and uses, sometimes in 
a reduced, and almost, if not quite, function- 

1 The Horse. 


less condition." Even Man himself presents 
traces of gill-openings, and indications of 
other organs which are fully developed in 
lower animals. 


There is in New Zealand a form of Crow 
(Hura), in which the female has undergone a 
very curious modification. It is the only case 
I know, in which the bill is differently shaped 
in the two sexes. The bird has taken on the 
habits of a Woodpecker, and the stout crow- 
like bill of the cock-bird is admirably adapted 
to tap trees, and if they sound hollow, to dig 
down to the burrow of the Insect ; but it 
lacks the horny-pointed tip of the tongue, 
which in the true Woodpecker is provided 
with recurved hairs, thus enabling that bird 
to pierce the grub and draw it out. In the 
Hura, however, the bill of the hen-bird has 
become much elongated and slightly curved, 
and when the cock has dug down to the 
burrow, the hen inserts her long bill and 


draws out the grub, which they then divide 
between them : a very pretty illustration of 
the wife as helpmate to the husband. 

It was indeed until lately the general 
opinion that animals and plants came into 
existence just as we now see them. We took 
pleasure in their beauty ; their adaptation to 
their habits and mode of life in many cases 
could not be overlooked or misunderstood. 
Nevertheless the book of Nature was like 
some missal richly illuminated, but written in 
an unknown tongue. The graceful forms of 
the letters, the beauty of the colouring, excited 
our Avonder and admiration ; but of the true 
meaning little was known to us ; indeed we 
scarcely realised that there was any meaning 
to decipher. Now glimpses of the truth are 
gradually revealing themselves, we perceive 
that there is a reason, and in many cases we 
know what the reason is, for every difference 
in form, in size, and in colour ; for every bone 
and every feather, almost for every hair. 1 

1 Lubbock, Fifty Years of Science. 



The colours of animals, generally, I believe, 
serve as a protection. In some, however, 
they probably render them more attractive to 
their mates, of which the Peacock is one of 
the most remarkable illustrations. 

In richness of colour birds and insects vie 
even with flowers. " One fine red admiral 
butterfly," says Jefferies, 1 " whose broad wings, 
stretched out like fans, looked simply splendid 
floating round and round the willows which 
marked the margin of a dry pool. His blue 
markings were really blue blue velvet his 
red and the white stroke shone as if sunbeams 
were in his wings. I wish there were more 
of these butterflies ; in summer, dry summer, 
when the flowers seem gone and the grass is 
not so dear to us, and the leaves are dull with 
heat, a little colour is so pleasant. To me 
colour is a sort of food ; every spot of colour 
is a drop of wine to the spirit." 

The varied colours which add so much to 

1 The Open Air. 


the beauty of animals and plants are not only 
thus a delight to the eye, but afford us also 
some of the most interesting problems in 
Natural History. Some probably are not 
in themselves of any direct advantage. 
The brilliant mother-of-pearl of certain shells, 
which during life is completely hidden, 
the rich colours of some internal organs of 
animals, are not perhaps of any direct 
benefit, but are incidental, like the rich and 
brilliant hues of many minerals and precious 

But although this may be true, I believe 
that most of these colours are now of some 
advantage. " The black back and silvery 
belly of fishes " have been recently referred to 
by a distinguished naturalist as being obvi- 
ously of no direct benefit. I should on 
the contrary have quoted this case as one 
where the advantage was obvious. The dark 
back renders the fish less conspicuous to an 
eye looking down into the water ; while the 
white under-surface makes them less visible 
from below. The animals of the desert are 
sand-coloured ; those of the Arctic regions are 


white like snow, especially in winter ; and 
pelagic animals are blue. 

Let us take certain special cases. The 
Lion, like other desert animals, is sand-col- 
oured ; the Tiger which lives in the Jungle 
has vertical stripes, making him difficult to 
see among the upright grass ; Leopards and 
the tree-cats are spotted, like rays of light 
seen through leaves. 

An interesting case is that of the animals 
living in the Sargasso or gulf-weed of the 
Atlantic. These creatures Fish, Crustacea, 
and Mollusks alike are characterised by a 
peculiar colouring, not continuously olive like 
the Seaweed itself, but blotched with rounded 
more or less irregular patches of bright, opake 
white, so as closely to resemble fronds cov- 
ered with patches of Flustra or Barnacles. 

Take the case of caterpillars, which are 
especially defenceless, and which as a rule 
feed on leaves. The smallest and youngest 
are green, like the leaves on which they live. 
When they become larger, they are char- 
acterised by longitudinal lines, which break 
up the surface and thus render them less 


conspicuous. On older and larger ones the 
lines are diagonal, like the nerves of leaves. 
Conspicuous caterpillars are generally either 
nauseous in taste, or protected by hairs. 

Fig. 1. Chcerocampa porcellus. 

I say " generally/' because there are some 
interesting exceptions. The large caterpillars 
of some of the Elephant Hawkmoths are very 
conspicuous, and rendered all the more so by 
the presence of a pair of large eyelike spots. 
Every one who sees one of these caterpillars 
is struck by its likeness to a snake, and the 
so-called " eyes " do much to increase the de- 
ception. Moreover, the ring on which they 
are placed is swollen, and the insect, when 
in danger, has the habit of retracting its head 
and front segments, which gives it an addi- 
tional resemblance to some small reptile. That 
small birds are, as a matter of fact, afraid of 
these caterpillars (which, however, I need not 
say, are in reality altogether harmless) Weis- 


maun has proved by actual experiment. He 
put one of these caterpillars in a tray, in 
which he was accustomed to place seed for 
birds. Soon a little flock of sparrows and 
other small birds assembled to feed as usual. 
One of them lit on the edge of this tray, and 
was just going to hop in, when she spied the 
caterpillar. Immediately she began bobbing 
her head up and down in the odd way which 
some small birds have, but was afraid to go 
nearer. Another joined her and then another, 
until at last there was a little company of ten 
or twelve birds all looking on in astonishment, 
but not one ventured into the tray ; while 
one bird, which lit in it unsuspectingly, beat a 
hasty retreat in evident alarm as soon as she 
perceived the caterpillar. After waiting for 
some time, Weismann removed it, when the 
birds soon attacked the seeds. Other cater- 
pillars also are probably protected by their 
curious resemblance to spotted snakes. One 
of the large Indian caterpillars has even ac- 
quired the power of hissing. 

Among perfect insects many resemble closely 
the substances near which they live. Some 


moths are mottled so as to mimic the bark of 
trees, or moss, or the surface of stones. One 
beautiful tropical butterfly has a dark wing 
on which are painted a series of green leaf 
tips, so that it closely resembles the edge of 
a pinnate leaf projecting out of shade into 

The argument is strengthened by those 
cases in which the protection, or other advan- 
tage, is due not merely to colour, but partly 
also to form. Such are the insects which 
resemble sticks or leaves. Again, there are 
cases in which insects mimic others, which, for 
some reason or other, are less liable to danger. 
So also many harmless animals mimic others 
which are poisonous or otherwise well pro- 
tected. Some butterflies, as Mr. Bates has 
pointed out, mimic others which are nauseous 
in taste, and therefore not attacked by birds. 
In these cases it is generally only the females 
that are mimetic, and in some cases only a 
part of them, so that there are two, or even 
three, kinds of females, the one retaining the 
normal colouring of the group, the other 
mimicking another species. Some spiders 


closely resemble Ants, and several other in- 
sects mimic Wasps or Hornets. 

Some reptiles and fish have actually the 
power of changing the colour of their skin so 
as to adapt themselves to their surroundings. 

Many cases in which the colouring does not 
at first sight appear to be protective, will on 
consideration be found to be so. It has, for 
instance, been objected that sheep are not 
coloured green ; but every mountaineer knows 
that sheep could riot have had a colour more 
adapted to render them inconspicuous, and 
that it is almost impossible to distinguish them 
from the rocks which so constantly crop up 
on hill sides. Even the brilliant blue of the 
Kingfisher, which in a museum renders it so 
conspicuous, in its native haunts, on the con- 
trary, makes it difficult to distinguish from a 
flash of light upon the water ; and the richly- 
coloured Woodpecker wears the genuine dress 
of a Forester the green coat and crimson 

It has been found that some brilliantly 
coloured and conspicuous animals are either 
nauseous or poisonous. In these cases the 


brilliant colour is doubtless a protection by 
rendering them more unmistakable. 


Some animals may delight us especially by 
their beauty, such as birds or butterflies ; 
others may surprise us by their size, as Ele- 
phants and Whales, or the still more marvel- 
lous monsters of ancient times ; may fascinate 
us by their exquisite forms, such as many micro- 
scopic shells ; or compel our reluctant attention 
by their similarity to us in structure ; but none 
offer more points of interest than those which 
live in communities. I do not allude to the 
temporary assemblages of Starlings, Swallows, 
and other birds at certain times of year, nor 
even to the permanent associations of animals 
brought together by common wants in suitable 
localities, but to regular and more or less or- 
ganised associations. Such colonies as those 
of Rooks and Beavers have no doubt interest- 
ing revelations and surprises in store for us, 
but they have not been as yet so much studied 


as those of some insects. Among these the 
Hive Bees, from the beauty and regularity 
of their cells, from their utility to man, and 
from the debt we owe them for their uncon- 
scious agency in the improvement of flowers, 
hold a very high place; but they are prob- 
ably less intelligent, and their relations with 
other animals and with one another are less 
complex than in the case of Ants, which have 
been so well studied by Gould, Huber, Forel, 
M'Cook, and other naturalists. 

The subject is a wide one, for there are at 
least a thousand species of Ants, no two of 
which have the same habits. In this country 
we have rather more than thirty, most of 
which I have kept in confinement. Their life 
is comparatively long : I have had working 
Ants which were seven years old, and a Queen 
Ant lived in one of my nests for fifteen years. 
The community consists, in addition to the 
young, of males, which do no work, of wingless 
workers, and one or more Queen mothers, who 
have at first wings, which, however, after one 
Marriage flight, they throw off, as they never 
leave the nest again, and in it wings would of 


course be useless. The workers do not, except 
occasionally, lay eggs, but carry on all the af- 
fairs of the community. Some of them, and 
especially the younger ones, remain in the 
nest, excavate chambers and tunnels, and tend 
the young, which are sorted up according to 
age, so that my nests often had the appear- 
ance of a school, with the children arranged 
in classes. 

In our English Ants the workers in each 
species are all similar except in size, but 
among foreign species there are some in which 
there are two or even more classes of workers, 
differing greatly not only in size, but also in 
form. The differences are not the result of 
age, nor of race, but are adaptations to 
different functions, the nature of which, 
however, is not yet well understood. Among 
the Termites those of one class certainly seem 
to act as soldiers, and among the true Ants 
also some have comparatively immense heads 
and powerful jaws. It is doubtful, however, 
whether they form a real army. Bates 
observed that on a foraging expedition the 
large-headed individuals did not walk in the 


regular ranks, nor on the return did they 
carry any of the booty, but marched along at 
the side, and at tolerably regular intervals, 
" like subaltern officers in a marching regi- 
ment." He is disposed, however, to ascribe 
to them a much humbler function, namely, 
to serve merely " as indigestible morsels to 
the ant thrushes." This, I confess, seems to 
me improbable. 

Solomon was, so far as we yet know, quite 
correct in describing Ants as having " neither 
guide, overseer, nor ruler." The so-called 
Queens are really Mothers. Nevertheless it 
is true, and it is curious, that the working 
Ants and Bees always turn their heads 
towards the Queen. It seems as if the sight 
of her gave them pleasure. On one occasion, 
while moving some Ants from one nest into 
another for exhibition at the Royal Institution, 
I unfortunately crushed the Queen and killed 
her. The others, however, did not desert her, 
or draw her out as they do dead workers, but 
on the contrary carried her into the new nest, 
and subsequently into a larger one with which 
I supplied them, congregating round her for 


weeks just as if she had been alive. One 
could hardly help fancying that they were 
mourning her loss, or hoping anxiously for 
her recovery. 

The Communities of Ants are sometimes 
very large, numbering even up to 500,000 
individuals; and it is a lesson to us, that no 
one has ever yet seen a quarrel between any 
two Ants belonging to the same community. 
On the other hand it must be admitted that 
they are in hostility, not only with most other 
insects, including Ants of different species, 
but even with those of the same species if 
belonging to different communities. I have 
over and over again introduced Ants from 
one of my nests into another nest of the same 
species, and they were invariably attacked, 
seized by a leg or an antenna, and dragged 

It is evident therefore that the Ants of 
each community all recognise one another, 
which is very remarkable. But more than 
this, I several times divided a nest into two 
halves, and found that even after a separation 
of a year and nine months they recognised 


one another, and were perfectly friendly; 
while they at once attacked Ants from a 
different nest, although of the same species. 

It has been suggested that the Ants of each 
nest have some sign or password by which 
they recognise one another. To test this I 
made some insensible. First I tried chloro- 
form, but this was fatal to them ; and as 
therefore they were practically dead, I did 
not consider the test satisfactory. I decided 
therefore to intoxicate them. This was 
less easy than I had expected. None of 
my Ants would voluntarily degrade them- 
selves by getting drunk. However, I got 
over the difficulty by putting them into 
whisky for a few moments. I took fifty 
specimens, twenty-five from one nest and 
twenty-five from another, made them dead 
drunk, marked each with a spot of paint, and 
put them on a table close to where other Ants 
from one of the nests were feeding. The 
table was surrounded as usual with a moat of 
water to prevent them from straying. The 
Ants which were feeding soon noticed those 
which I had made drunk. They seemed quite 


astonished to find their comrades in such a 
disgraceful condition, and as much at a loss 
to know what to do with their drunkards as 
we are. After a while, however, to cut my 
story short, they carried them all away : the 
strangers they took to the edge of the moat 
and dropped into the water, while they bore 
their friends home into the nest, where by 
degrees they slept off the effects of the spirit. 
Thus it is evident that they know their friends 
even when incapable of giving any sign or 

This little experiment also shows that they 
help comrades in distress. If a Wolf or a Rook 
be ill or injured, we are told that it is driven 
away or even killed by its comrades. Not so 
with Ants. For instance, in one of my nests 
an unfortunate Ant, in emerging from the 
chrysalis skin, injured her legs so much that 
she lay on her back quite helpless. For three 
months, however, she was carefully fed and 
tended by the other Ants. In another case 
an Ant in the same manner had injured her 
antennae. I watched her also carefully to see 
what would happen. For some days she did 


not leave the nest. At last one day she 
ventured outside, and after a while met a 
stranger Ant of the same species, but be- 
longing to another nest, by whom she was 
at once attacked. I tried to separate them, 
but whether by her enemy, or perhaps by my 
well-meant but clumsy kindness, she was 
evidently much hurt and lay helplessly on her 
side. Several other Ants passed her without 
taking any notice, but soon one came up, 
examined her carefully with her antennae, and 
carried her off tenderly to the nest. No one, 
I think, who saw it could have denied to that 
Ant one attribute of humanity, the quality of 

The existence of such communities as those 
of Ants or Bees implies, no doubt, some power 
of communication, but the amount is still a 
matter of doubt. It is well known that if one 
Bee or Ant discovers a store of food, others 
soon find their way to it. This, however, 
does not prove much. It makes all the 
difference whether they are brought or sent. 
If they merely accompany on her return a 
companion who has brought a store of food, 


it does not imply much. To test this, there- 
fore, I made several experiments. For in- 
stance, one cold day my Ants were almost all 
in their nests. One only was out hunting 
and about six feet from home. I took a dead 
bluebottle fly, pinned it on to a piece of cork, 
and put it down just in front of her. She at 
once tried to carry off the fly, but to her sur- 
prise found it immovable. She tugged and 
tugged, first one way and then another for 
about twenty minutes, and then went straight 
off to the nest. During that time not a single 
Ant had come out ; in fact she was the only 
Ant of that nest out at the time. She went 
straight in, but in a few seconds less than 
half a minute, came out again with no less 
than twelve friends, who trooped off with her, 
and eventually tore up the dead fly, carrying 
it off in triumph. 

Now the first Ant took nothing home with 
her ; she must therefore somehow have made 
her friends understand that she had found 
some food, and wanted them to come and help 
her to secure it. In all such cases, however, 
so far as my experience goes, the Ants brought 


their friends, and some of my experiments 
indicated that they are unable to send them. 

Certain species of Ants, again, make slaves 
of others, as Huber first observed. If a col- 
ony of the slave-making Ants is changing the 
nest, a matter which is left to the discretion of 
the slaves, the latter carry their mistresses to 
their new home. Again, if I uncovered one 
of my nests of the Fuscous Ant (Formica 
fusca), they all began running about in search 
of some place of refuge. If now I covered over 
one small part of the nest, after a while some 
Ant discovered it. In such a case, however, the 
brave little insect never remained there, she 
came out in search of her friends, and the 
first one she met she took up in her jaws, 
threw over her shoulder (their way of carry- 
ing friends), and took into the covered part ; 
then both came out again, found two more 
friends and brought them in, the same ma- 
noeuvre being repeated until the whole commu- 
nity was in a place of safety. This I think 
says much for their public spirit, but seems to 
prove that, in F. fusca at least, the powers of 
communication are but limited. 


One kind of slave-making Ant has be- 
come so completely dependent on their slaves, 
that even if provided with food they will die 
of hunger, unless there is a slave to put it 
into their mouth. I found, however, that 
they would thrive very well if supplied with 
a slave for an hour or so once a week to clean 
and feed them. 

But in many cases the community does not 
consist of Ants only. They have domestic 
animals, and indeed it is not going too far to 
say that they have domesticated more animals 
than we have. Of these the most important 
are Aphides. Some species keep Aphides on 
trees and bushes, others collect root-feeding 
Aphides into their nests. They serve as cows 
to the Ants, which feed on the honey-dew 
secreted by the Aphides. Not only, more- 
over, do the Ants protect the Aphides them- 
selves, but collect their eggs in autumn, 
and tend them carefully through the winter, 
ready for the next spring. Many other insects 
are also domesticated by Ants, and some of 
them, from living constantly underground, 


have completely lost their eyes and become 
quite blind. 

But I must not let myself be carried away 
by this fascinating subject, which I have 
treated more at length in another work. 1 I 
will only say that though their intelligence 
is no doubt limited, still I do not think that 
any one who has studied the life-history of 
Ants can draw any fundamental line of sep- 
aration between instinct and reason. 

When we see a community of Ants work- 
ing together in perfect harmony, it is impos- 
sible not to ask ourselves how far they are 
mere exquisite automatons ; how far they are 
conscious beings ? When we watch an 
ant-hill tenanted by thousands of industrious 
inhabitants, excavating chambers, forming 
tunnels, making roads, guarding their home, 
gathering food, feeding the young, tending 
their domestic animals each one fulfilling 
its duties industriously, and without con- 
fusion, it is difficult altogether to deny 
to them the gift of reason ; and all our 

1 Ants, Bees, and Wasps. 


recent observations tend to confirm the 
opinion that their mental powers differ 
from those of men, not so much in kind 
as in degree. 


ON ANIMAL LIFE continued 

An organic being is a microcosm a little universe, 
formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceiv- 
ably minute and numerous as the stars of heaven. 



ON ANIMAL LIFE continued. 

WE constantly speak of animals as free. A 
fish, says Ruskin, " is much freer than a Man ; 
and as to a fly, it is a black incarnation of 
freedom." It is pleasant to think of anything 
as free, but in this case the idea is, I fear, to 
a great extent erroneous. Young animals may 
frolic and play, but older ones take life very 
seriously. About the habits of fish and flies, 
indeed, as yet we know very little. Any one, 
however, who will watch animals will soon 
satisfy himself how diligently they work. 
Even when they seem to be idling over flowers, 
or wandering aimlessly about, they are in truth 
diligently seeking for food, or collecting 
materials for nests. The industry of Bees is 
proverbial. When collecting honey or pollen 



they often visit over twenty flowers in a 
minute, keeping constantly to one species, 
without yielding a moment's dalliance to any 
more sweet or lovely tempter. Ants fully 
deserve the commendation of Solomon. 
Wasps have not the same reputation for in- 
dustry ; but I have watched them from before 
four in the morning till dark at night work- 
ing like animated machines without a mo- 
ment's rest or intermission. Sundays and 
Bank Holidays are all the same to them. 
Again, Birds have their own gardens and 
farms from which they do not wander, and 
within which they will tolerate no interfer- 
ence. Their ideas of the rights of property 
are far stricter than those of some statesmen. 
As to freedom, they have their daily duties as 
much as a mechanic in a mill or a clerk in an 
office. They suffer under alarms, moreover, 
from which we are happily free. Mr. Galton 
believes that the life of wild animals is very 
anxious. " From my own recollection," he 
says, "I believe that every antelope in South 
Africa has to run for its life every one or two 
days upon an average, and that he starts or 


gallops under the influence of a false alarm 
many times in a day. Those who have 
crouched at night by the side of pools in the 
desert, in order to have a shot at the beasts 
that frequent it, see strange scenes of animal 
life ; how the creatures gambol at one moment 
and fight at another ; how a herd suddenly 
halts in strained attention, and then breaks 
into a maddened rush as one of them becomes 
conscious of the stealthy movements or rank 
scent of a beast of prey. Now this hourly life- 
and-death excitement is a keen delight to 
most wild creatures, but must be peculiarly 
distracting to the comfort-loving temperament 
of others. The latter are alone suited to 
endure the crass habits and dull routine of 
domesticated life. Suppose that an animal 
which has been captured and half-tamed, 
received ill-usage from his captors, either as 
punishment or through mere brutality, and 
that he rushed indignantly into the forest 
with his ribs aching from blows and stones. 
If a comfort-loving animal, he will probably 
be no gainer by the change, more serious 
alarms and no less ill-usage awaits him : he 


hears the roar of the wild beasts, and the 
headlong gallop of the frightened herds, and 
he finds the buttings and the kicks of other 
animals harder to endure than the blows from 
which he fled : he has peculiar disadvantages 
from being a stranger ; the herds of his own 
species which he seeks for companionship con- 
stitute so many cliques, into which he can 
only find admission by more fighting with 
their strongest members than he has spirit to 
undergo. As a set-off against these miseries, 
the freedom of savage life has no charms for 
his temperament ; so the end of it is, that 
with a heavy heart he turns back to the 
habitation he had quitted." 

But though animals may not be free, I 
hope and believe that they are happy. Dr. 
Hudson, an admirable observer, assures us 
with confidence that the struggle for exist- 
ence leaves them much leisure and famous 
spirits. " In the animal world," he exclaims, 1 
" what happiness reigns ! What ease, grace, 
beauty, leisure, and content ! Watch these 
living specks as they glide through their 

1 Address to Microscopical Society, 1890. 


forests of algae, all ' without hurry and care/ 
as if their ' span - long lives ' really could 
endure for the thousand years that the old 
catch pines for. Here is no greedy jostling 
at the banquet that nature has spread for 
them ; no dread of each other ; but a leisurely 
inspection of the field, that shows neither the 
pressure of hunger nor the dread of an 

" ' To labour and to be content ' (that < sweet 
life ' of the son of Sirach) to be equally ready 
for an enemy or a friend to trust in them- 
selves alone, to show a brave unconcern for the 
morrow, all these are the admirable points of 
a character almost universal among animals, 
and one that would lighten many a heart 
were it more common among men. That 
character is the direct result of the golden 
law ' If one will not work, neither let him 
eat ' ; a law whose stern kindness, unflinch- 
ingly applied, has produced whole nations of 
living creatures, without a pauper in their 
ranks, flushed with health, alert, resolute, 
self-reliant, and singularly happy." 

It has often been said that Man is the only 


animal gifted with the power of enjoying a 
joke, but if animals do not laugh, at any 
rate they sometimes play. We are, indeed, 
apt perhaps to credit them with too much 
of our own attributes and emotions, but we 
can hardly be mistaken in supposing that 
they enjoy certain scents and sounds. It is 
difficult to separate the games of kittens 
and lambs from those of children. Our 
countryman Gould long ago described the 
" amusements or sportive exercises " which 
he had observed among Ants. Forel was at 
first incredulous, but finally confirmed these 
statements ; and, speaking of certain tropical 
Ants, Bates says " the conclusion that they 
were engaged in play was irresistible." 


We share with other animals the great 
blessing of Sleep, nature's soft nurse, " the 
mantle that covers thought, the food that 
appeases hunger, the drink that quenches 
thirst, the fire that warms cold, the cold that 


moderates heat, the coin that purchases all 
things, the balance and weight that equals the 
shepherd with the king, and the simple with 
the wise." Some animals dream as we do ; 
Dogs, for instance, evidently dream of the 
chase. With the lower animals which cannot 
shut their eyes it is, however, more difficult 
to make sure whether they are awake or 
asleep. I have often noticed insects at night, 
even when it was warm and light, behave 
just as if they were asleep, and take no notice 
of objects which would certainly have startled 
them in the day. The same thing has also 
been observed in the case of fish. 

But why should we sleep ? What a remark- 
able thing it is that one-third of our life should 
be passed in unconsciousness. "Half of our 
days," says Sir T. Browne, " we pass in the 
shadow of the earth, and the brother of death 
extracteth a third part of our lives." The 
obvious suggestion is that we require rest. 
But this does not fully meet the case. In 
sleep the mind is still awake, and lives a life 
of its own : our thoughts wander, uncon- 
trolled, by the will. The mind, therefore, is 


not necessarily itself at rest ; and yet we all 
know how it is refreshed by sleep. 

But though animals sleep, many of them 
are nocturnal in their habits. Humboldt gives 
a vivid description of night in a Brazilian 

" Everything passed tranquilly till eleven 
at night, and then a noise so terrible arose in 
the neighbouring forest that it was almost 
impossible to close our eyes. Amid the cries 
of so many wild beasts howling at once the 
Indians discriminated such only as were (at 
intervals) heard separately. These were the 
little soft cries of the sapajous, the moans of 
the alouate apes, the howlings of the jaguar 
and couguar, the peccary and the sloth, and 
the cries of (many) birds. When the jaguars 
approached the skirt of the forest our dog, 
which till then had never ceased barking, 
began to howl and seek for shelter beneath our 
hammocks. Sometimes, after a long silence, 
the cry of the tiger came from the tops of the 
trees ; and then it was followed by the sharp 
and long whistling of the monkeys, which 
appeared to nee from the danger which 


threatened them. We heard the same noises 
repeated during the course of whole months 
whenever the forest approached the bed of the 

" When the natives are interrogated on the 
causes of the tremendous noise made by 
the beasts of the forest at certain hours of 
the night, the answer is, they are keeping the 
feast of the full moon. I believe this agita- 
tion is most frequently the effect of some con- 
flict that has arisen in the depths of the 
forest. The jaguars, for instance, pursue the 
peccaries and the tapirs, which, having no 
defence, flee in close troops, and break down 
the bushes they find in their way. Terrified 
at this struggle, the timid and distrustful 
monkeys answer, from the tops of the trees, 
the cries of the large animals. They awaken 
the birds that live in society, and by degrees 
the whole assembly is in commotion. It is 
not always in a fine moonlight, but more par- 
ticularly at the time of a storm of violent 
showers, that this tumult takes place among 
the wild beasts. ' May heaven grant them a 
quiet night and repose, and us also ! ' said the 


monk who accompanied us to the Rio Negro, 
when, sinking with fatigue, he assisted in 
arranging our accommodation for the night." 

Life is indeed among animals a struggle for 
existence, and in addition to the more usual 
weapons teeth and claws we find in some 
animals special and peculiar means of offence 
and defence. 

If we had not been so familiarised with the 
fact, the possession of poison might well seem 
a wonderful gift. That a fluid, harmless in 
one animal itself, should yet prove so deadly 
when transferred to others, is certainly very 
remarkable ; and though the venom of the 
Cobra or the Rattlesnake appeal perhaps more 
effectively to our imagination, we have con- 
clusive evidence of concentrated poison even 
in the bite of a midge, which may remain for 
days perceptible. The sting of a Bee or Wasp, 
though somewhat similar in its effect, is a 
totally different organ, being a modified ovi- 
positor. Some species of Ants do not sting 
in the ordinary sense, but eject their acrid 
poison to a distance of several inches. 

Another very remarkable weapon is the 


electric battery of certain Eels, of the Electric 
Cat Fish, and the Torpedoes, one of which is 
said to be able to discharge an amount of 
electricity sufficient to kill a Man. 

Some of the Medusae and other Zoophytes 
are armed by millions of minute organs 
known as " thread cells." Each consists of a 
cell, within which a firm, elastic thread is 
tightly coiled. The moment the Medusa 
touches its prey the cells burst and the 
threads spring out. Entering the flesh as 
they do by myriads, they prove very effective 

The ink of the Sepia has passed into a proverb. 
The animal possesses a store of dark fluid, 
which, if attacked, it at once ejects, and thus 
escapes under cover of the cloud thus created. 

The so-called Bombardier Beetles, when at- 
tacked, discharge at the enemy, from the 
hinder part of their body, an acrid fluid which, 
as soon as it comes in contact with air, ex- 
plodes with a sound resembling a miniature 
gun. Westwood mentions, on the authority 
of Burchell, that on one occasion, "whilst 
resting for the night on the banks of one of 


the large South American rivers, he went out 
with a lantern to make an astronomical obser- 
vation, accompanied by one of his black ser- 
vant boys ; and as they were proceeding, 
their attention was directed to numerous 
beetles running about upon the shore, which, 
when captured, proved to be specimens of a 
large species of Brachinus. On being seized 
they immediately began to play off their artil- 
lery, burning and staining the flesh to such a 
degree that only a few specimens could be 
captured with the naked hand, and leaving a 
mark which remained a considerable time. 
Upon observing the whitish vapour with 
which the explosions were accompanied, the 
negro exclaimed in his broken English, with evi- 
dent surprise, ' Ah, massa, they make smoke!' ' 
Many other remarkable illustrations might 
be quoted; as for instance the web of the 
Spider, the pit of the Ant Lion, the mephitic 
odour of the Skunk. 


We generally attribute to animals five 
senses more or less resembling our own. But 


even as regards our own senses we really 
know or understand very little. Take the 
question of colour. The rainbow is commonly 
said to consist of seven colours red, orange, 
yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. 

But it is now known that all our colour 
sensations are mixtures of three simple col- 
ours, red, green, and violet. We are, how- 
ever, absolutely ignorant how we perceive 
these colours. Thomas Young suggested 
that we have three different systems of nerve 
fibres, and Helmholtz regards this as " a not 
improbable supposition"; but so far as mi- 
croscopical examination is concerned, there is 
no evidence whatever for it. 

Or take again the sense of Hearing. The 
vibrations of the air no doubt play upon the 
drum of the ear, and the waves thus produced 
are conducted through a complex chain of 
small bones to the fenestra ovalis and so to 
the inner ear or labyrinth. But beyond this 
all is uncertainty. The labyrinth consists 
mainly of two parts (1) the cochlea, and (2) 
the semicircular canals, which are three in 
number, standing at right angles to one 


another. It has been supposed that they 
enable us to maintain the equilibrium of the 
body, but no satisfactory explanation of their 
function has yet been given. In the cochlea, 
Corti discovered a remarkable organ consist- 
ing of some four thousand complex arches, 
which increase regularly in length and dimin- 
ish in height. They are connected at one end 
with the fibres of the auditory nerve, and 
Helmholtz has suggested that the waves of 
sound play on them, like the fingers of a per- 
former on the keys of a piano, each separate 
arch corresponding to a different sound. We 
thus obtain a glimpse, though but a glimpse, 
of the manner in which perhaps we hear ; but 
when we pass on to the senses of smell and 
taste, all we know is that the extreme nerve 
fibres terminate in certain cells which differ 
in form from those of the general surface ; 
but in what manner the innumerable differ- 
ences of taste or smell are communicated to 
the brain, we are absolutely ignorant. 

If then v;o know so little about ourselves, 
no wonder that with reference to other ani- 
mals our ignorance is extreme. 


We are too apt to suppose that the senses 
of animals must closely resemble, and be con- 
fined to ours. 

No one can doubt that the sensations of 
other animals differ in many ways from ours. 
Their organs are sometimes constructed on 
different principles, and situated in very un- 
expected places. There are animals which 
have eyes on their backs, ears in their legs, 
and sing through their sides. 

We all know that the senses of animals are 
in many cases much more acute than ours, as 
for instance the power of scent in the dog, of 
sight in the eagle. Moreover, our eye is 
much more sensitive to some colours than to 
others ; least so to crimson, then successively 
to red, orange, yellow, blue, and green ; the 
sensitiveness for green being as much as 750 
times as great as for red. This alone may 
make objects appear of very different colours 
to different animals. 

Nor is the difference one of degree merely. 
The rainbow, as we see it, consists of seven 
colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue, 
indigo, and violet. But though the red and 


violet are the limits of the visible spectrum, 
they are not the limits of the spectrum itself, 
there are rays, though invisible to us, beyond 
the red at the one end, and beyond the violet 
at the other : the existence of the ultra red 
can be demonstrated by the thermometer ; 
while the ultra violet are capable of taking 
a photograph. But though the red and violet 
are respectively the limits of our vision, I 
have shown * by experiments which have been 
repeated and confirmed by other naturalists, 
that some of the lower animals are capable 
of perceiving the ultra-violet rays, which to 
us are invisible. It is an interesting question 
whether these rays may not produce on them 
the impression of a new colour, or colours, 
differing from any of those known to us. 

So again with hearing, not only may 
animals in some cases hear better than we 
do, but sounds which are beyond the reach 
of our ears, may be audible to theirs. Even 
among ourselves the power of hearing shrill 
sounds is greater in some persons than in 
others. Sound, as we know, is produced by 

1 Ants, Sees, and Wasps, and The Senses of Animals. 


vibration of the air striking on the drum of 
the ear, and the fewer are the vibrations in 
a second, the deeper is the sound, which 
becomes shriller and shriller as the waves of 
sound become more rapid. In human ears 
the limits of hearing are reached when about 
35,000 vibrations strike the drum of the ear 
in a second. 

Whatever the explanation of the gift of 
hearing in ourselves may be, different plans 
seem to be adopted in the case of other 
animals. In many Crustacea and Insects 
there are flattened hairs each connected with 
a nerve fibre, and so constituted as to vibrate 
in response to particular notes. In others 
the ear cavity contains certain minute solid 
bodies, known as otoliths, which in the same 
way play upon the nerve fibres. Sometimes 
these are secreted by the walls of the cavity 
itself, but certain Crustacea have acquired the 
remarkable habit of selecting after each 
moult suitable particles of sand, which they 
pick up with their pincers and insert into 
their ears. 

Many insects, besides the two large 


" compound" eyes one on each side of the 
head, have between them three small ones, 
known as the " ocelli," arranged in a triangle. 
The structure of these two sets of eyes is 
quite different. The ocelli appear to see as our 
eyes do. The lens throws an inverted image 
on the back of the eye, so that with these 
eyes they must see everything reversed, as we 
ourselves really do, though long practice 
enables us to correct the impression. On the 
other hand, the compound eyes consist of a 
number of facets, in some species as many as 
20,000 in each eye, and the prevailing 
impression among entomologists now is that 
each facet receives the impression of one 
pencil of rays, that in fact the image 
formed in a compound eye is a sort of 
mosaic. In that case, vision by means of 
these eyes must be direct ; and it is indeed 
difficult to understand how an insect can 
obtain a correct impression when it looks at 
the world with five eyes, three of which see 
everything reversed, while the other two see 
things the right way up ! 

On the other hand, some regard each 


facet as an independent eye, in which case 
many insects realise the epigram of Plato 

Thou lookest on. the stars, my love, 

Ah, would that I could be 
Yon starry skies with thousand eyes, 

That I might look on thee ! 

Even so, therefore, we only substitute one 
difficulty for another. 

But this is not all. We have not only no 
proof that animals are confined to our five 
senses, but there are strong reasons for believ- 
ing that this is not the case. 

In the first place, many animals have 
organs which from their position, structure, 
and rich supply of nerves, are evidently 
organs of sense ; and yet which do not 
appear to be adapted to any one of our five 

As already mentioned, the limits of hearing 
are reached when about 35,000 vibrations 
of the air strike on the drums of our ears. 
Light, as was first conclusively demonstrated 
by our great countryman Young, is the im- 
pression produced by vibration of the ether 


on the retina of the eye. When 700 millions 
of millions of vibrations strike the eye in a 
second, we see violet ; and the colour changes 
as the number diminishes, 400 millions of 
millions giving us the impression of red. 

Between 35 thousand and 400 millions of 
millions the interval is immense, and it is 
obvious that there might be any number of 
sensations. When we consider how greatly 
animals differ from us, alike in habits and 
structure, is it not possible, nay, more, is it 
not likely that some of these problematical 
organs are the seats of senses unknown to us, 
and give rise to sensations of which we have 
no conception ? 

In addition to the capacity for receiving 
and perceiving, some animals have the faculty 
of emitting light. In our country the glow- 
worm is the most familiar case, though some 
other insects and worms have, at any rate 
under certain conditions, the same power, and 
it is possible that many others are really lumi- 
nous, though with light which is invisible to 
us. In warmer climates the Fire-fly, Lan- 
thorn-fly, and many other insects, shine with 


much greater brilliance, and in these cases the 
glow seems to be a real love-light, like the 
lamp of Hero. 

Many small marine animals, Medusae, 
Crustacea, Worms, etc., are also brilliantly 
luminous at night. Deep-sea animals are 
endowed also in many cases with special 
luminous organs, to which I shall refer 


It has been supposed that animals possess 
also what has been called a Sense of Direc- 
tion. Many interesting cases are on record of 
animals finding their way home after being 
taken a considerable distance. To account 
for this fact it has been suggested that 
animals possess a sense with which we are 
not endowed, or of which, at any rate, we 
possess only a trace. The homing instinct of 
the pigeon has also been ascribed to the same 
faculty. My brother Alfred, however, who 
has paid much attention to pigeons, informs 
me that they are never taken any great dis- 


tance at once ; but if they are intended to 
take a long flight, they are trained to do so 
by stages. 

Darwin suggested that it would be inter- 
esting to test the case by taking animals in 
a close box, and then whirling them round 
rapidly before letting them out. This is in 
fact done with cats in some parts of France, 
when the family migrates, and is considered 
the only way of preventing the cat from re- 
turning to the old home. Fabre has tried 
the same thing with some wild Bees (Chali- 
codoma). He took some, marked them on 
the back with a spot of white, and put them 
into a bag. He then carried them a quarter 
of a mile, stopping at a point where an old 
cross stands by the wayside, and whirled the 
bag rapidly round his head. While he was 
doing so a good woman came by, who seemed 
not a little surprised to find the Professor sol- 
emnly whirling a black bag round his head 
in front of the cross ; and, he fears, suspected 
him of Satanic practices. He then carried 
his Bees a mile and a half in the opposite 
direction and let them go. Three out of 


ten found their way home. He tried the 
same experiment several times, in one case 
taking them a little over two miles. On 
an average about a third of the Bees found 
their way home. " La demonstration," says 
Fabre, " est suffisante. Ni les mouvements 
enchevetres d'une rotation comme je 1'ai de- 
crite ; ni 1'obstacle de collines a franchir et de 
bois a traverser ; ni les embuches d'une voie 
qui s'avance, retrograde, et revient par un 
ample circuit, ne peuvent troubler les Chalico- 
domes depayses et les empecher de revenir 
au nid." 

I must say, however, that I am not 
convinced. In the first place, the distances 
were I think too short ; and in the second, 
though it is true that some of the Bees found 
their way home, nearly two-thirds failed to 
do so. It would be interesting to try the 
experiment again, taking the Bees say five 
miles. If they really possess any such sense, 
that distance would be no bar to their return. 
I have myself experimented with Ants, taking 
them about fifty yards from the nest, and I 
always found that they wandered aimlessly 


about, having evidently not the slightest idea 
of their way home. They certainly did not 
appear to possess any " sense of direction." 


The total number of species may probably 
be safely estimated as at least 2,000,000, of 
which but a fraction have yet been described 
or named. Of extinct species the number 
was probably at least as great. In the 
geological history of the earth there have 
been at least twelve periods, in each of which 
by far the greatest number were distinct. The 
Ancient Poets described certain gifted mortals 
as having been privileged to descend into the 
interior of the earth, and exercised their 
imagination in recounting the wonders thus 
revealed. As in other cases, however, the 
realities of Science have proved far more 
varied and surprising than the dreams of 
fiction. Of these extinct species our knowl- 
edge is even more incomplete than that of 
the existing species. But even of our con tern- 


poraries it is not too much to say that, as in 
the case of plants, there is not one the structure, 
habits, and life-history of which are yet fully 
known to us. The male of the Cynips, which 
produces the common King Charles Oak 
Apple, has only recently been discovered, 
those of the root-feeding Aphides, which live 
in hundreds in every nest of the yellow 
Meadow Ant (Lasius flavus) are still un- 
known ; the habits and mode of reproduction 
of the common Eel have only just been dis- 
covered ; and we may even say generally that 
many of the most interesting recent discover- 
ies have relation to the commonest and most 
familiar animals. 


Whatever pre-eminence Man may claim for 
himself, other animals have done far more to 
affect the face of nature. The principal 
agents have not been the larger or more in- 
telligent, but rather the smaller, and individ- 
ually less important, species. Beavers may 
have dammed up many of the rivers of Brit- 



ish Columbia, and turned them into a suc- 
cession of pools or marshes, but this is a 
slight matter compared with the action of 
earthworms and insects 1 in the creation of 
vegetable soil ; of the accumulation of ani- 
malcules in filling up harbours and lakes ; 
or of Zoophytes in the construction of coral 

Microscopic animals make up in number 
what they lack in size. Paris is built of 
Infusoria. The Peninsula of Florida, 78,000 
square miles in extent, is entirely composed of 
coral debris and fragments of shells. Chalk 
consists mainly of Foraminifera and fragments 
of shells deposited in a deep sea. The num- 
ber of shells required to make up a cubic inch 
is almost incredible. Ehrenberg has estimated 
that of the Bilin polishing slate which caps 
the mountain, and has a thickness of forty 
feet, a cubic inch contains many hundred 
million shells of Infusoria. 

In another respect these microscopic organ- 

1 Prof. Drummond ( Tropical Africa) dwells with great force 
on the manner in which the soil of Central Africa is worked up 
by the White Ants. 


isms are of vital importance. Many diseases 
are now known, and others suspected, to be 
entirely due to Bacteria and other minute 
forms of life (Microbes), which multiply in- 
credibly, and either destroy their victims, or 
after a while diminish again in numbers. We 
live indeed in a cloud of Bacteria. At the 
observatory of Montsouris at Paris it has 
been calculated that there are about 80 in 
each cubic meter of air. Elsewhere, however, 
they are much more numerous. Pasteur's re- 
searches on the Silkworm disease led him to 
the discovery of Bacterium anthracis, the 
cause of splenic fever. Microbes are present 
in persons suffering from cholera, typhus, 
whooping-cough, measles, hydrophobia, etc., 
but as to their history and connection with 
disease we have yet much to learn. It is 
fortunate, indeed, that they do not all at- 
tack us. 

In surgical cases, again, the danger of com- 
pound fractures and mortification of wounds 
has been found to be mainly due to the pres- 
ence of microscopic organisms ; and Lister, by 
his antiseptic treatment which destroys these 


germs or prevents their access, has greatly 
diminished the danger of operations, and the 
sufferings of recovery. 


In the size of animals we find every grada- 
tion from these atoms which even in the most 
powerful microscopes appear as mere points, 
up to the gigantic reptiles of past ages and 
the Whales of our present ocean. The horned 
Ray or Skate is 25 feet in length, by 30 in 
width. The Cuttle-fishes of our seas, though 
so hideous as to resemble a bad dream, are too 
small to be formidable ; but off the Newfound- 
land coast is a species with arms sometimes 
30 feet long, so as to be 60 feet from tip to 
tip. The body, however, is small in propor- 
tion. The Giraffe attains a height of over 
20 feet ; the Elephant, though not so tall, is 
more bulky ; the Crocodile reaches a length 
of over 20 feet, the Python of 60 feet, the 
extinct Titanosaurus of the American Jurassic 
beds, the largest land animal yet known to us, 
100 feet in length and 30 in height; the 


Whalebone Whale over 70 feet, Sibbald's 
Whale is said to have reached 80-90, which 
is perhaps the limit. Captain Scoresby in- 
deed mentions a Rorqual no less than 120 
feet in length, but this is probably too great 
an estimate. 


The complexity of animal structure is even 
more marvellous than their mere magnitude. 
A Caterpillar contains more than 2000 mus- 
cles. In our own body are some 2,000,000 
perspiration glands, communicating with the 
surface by ducts having a total length of some 
10 miles; while that of the arteries, veins, 
and capillaries must be very great; the blood 
contains millions of millions of corpuscles, 
each no doubt a complex structure in itself ; 
the rods in the retina, which are supposed to 
be the ultimate recipient of light, are esti- 
mated at 30,000,000 ; and Meinert has calcu- 
lated that the gray matter of the brain is 
built up of at least 600,000,000 cells. No 


verbal description, however, can do justice to 
the marvellous complexity of animal structure, 
which the microscope alone, and even that but 
faintly, can enable us to realise. 


How little we yet know of the life-history 
of Animals is illustrated by the vagueness of 
our information as to the age to which they 
live. Professor Lankester 1 tells us that "the 
paucity and uncertainty of observations on 
this class of facts is extreme." The Rabbit is 
said to reach 10 years, the Dog and Sheep 10 
-12, the Pig 20, the Horse 30, the Camel 100, 
the Elephant 200, the Greenland Whale 400 
(?) : among Birds, the Parrot to attain 100 
years,, the Raven even more. The Atur Par- 
rot mentioned by Humboldt, talked, but could 
not be understood, because it spoke in the 
language of an extinct Indian tribe. It is 
supposed from their rate of growth that among 

1 Lankester, Comparative Longevity. See also Weismann, 
Duration of Life. 


Fish the Carp is said to reach 150 years; and 
a Pike, 19 feet long, and weighing 350 Ibs., 
is said to have been taken in Suabia in 1497 
carrying a ring, on which was inscribed, " I 
am the fish which was first of all put into the 
lake by the hands of the Governor of the Uni- 
verse, Frederick the Second, the 5th Oct. 
1230." This would imply an age of over 267 
years. Many Reptiles are no doubt very long- 
lived. A Tortoise is said to have reached 500 
years. As regards the lower animals, the 
greatest age on record is that of Sir J. 
Dalzell's Sea Anemone, which lived for over 
50 years. Insects are generally short-lived; 
the Queen Bee, however, is said by Aristotle, 
whose statement has not been confirmed by 
recent writers, to live 7 years. I myself 
had a Queen Ant which attained the age of 
15 years. 

The May Fly (Ephemera) is celebrated as 
living only for a day, and has given its name 
to all things short-lived. The statement 
usually made is, indeed, very misleading, for 
in its larval condition the Ephemera lives for 
weeks. Many writers have expressed surprise 


that in the perfect state its life should be so 
short. It is, however, so defenceless, and, 
moreover, so much appreciated by birds and 
fish, that unless they laid their eggs very 
rapidly none would perhaps survive to con- 
tinue the species. 

Many of these estimates are, as will be 
seen, very vague and doubtful, so that we 
must still admit with Bacon that, " touching 
the length and shortness of life in living 
creatures, the information which may be had 
is but slender, observation is negligent, and 
tradition fabulous. In tame creatures their 
degenerate life corrupteth them, in wild creat- 
ures their exposing to all weathers often in- 
tercepteth them." 


When we descend still lower in the animal 
scale, the consideration of this question opens 
out a very curious and interesting subject 
connected with animal individuality. As 
regards the animals with which we are most 


familiar no such question intrudes. Among 
quadrupeds and birds, fishes and reptiles, 
there is no difficulty in deciding whether a 
given organism is an individual, or a part of 
an individual. Nor does the difficulty arise 
in the case of most insects. The Bee or But- 
terfly lays an egg which develops successively 
into a larva and pupa, finally producing Bee 
or Butterfly. In these cases, therefore, the 
egg, larva, pupa, and perfect Insect, are re- 
garded as stages in the life of a single indi- 
vidual. In certain gnats, however, the larva 
itself produces young larvae, each of which 
develops into a gnat, so that the egg produces 
not one gnat but many gnats. 

The difficulty of determining what consti- 
tutes an individual becomes still greater among 
the Zoophytes. These beautiful creatures in 
many cases so closely resemble plants, that 
until our countryman Ellis proved them to be 
animals, Crabbe was justified in saying 

Involved in sea wrack here we find a race, 
Which Science, doubting, knows not where to place ; 
On shell or stone is dropped the embryo seed, 
And quickly vegetates a vital breed. 


We cannot wonder that such organisms were 
long regarded as belonging to the vegetable 
kingdom. The cups which terminate the 
branches contain, however, an animal struct- 
ure, resembling a small Sea Anemone, and 
possessing arms which capture the food by 
which the whole colony is nourished. Some 
of these cups, moreover, differ from the rest, 
and produce eggs. These then we might 
be disposed to term ovaries. But in many 
species they detach themselves from the group 
and lead an independent existence. Thus we 
find a complete gradation from structures 
which, regarded by themselves, we should un- 
questionably regard as mere organs, to others 
which are certainly separate and independent 

Fig. 2 represents, after Allman, a colony of 
Bougainvillea fruticosa of the natural size. 
It is a British species, which is found growing 
on buoys, floating timber, etc., and, says 
Allman, " When in health and vigour, offers 
a spectacle unsurpassed in interest by any 
other species every branchlet crowned by 
its graceful hydranth, and budding with Me- 




dusae in all stages of development (Fig. 3), some 
still in the condition of minute buds, in which 
no trace of the definite Medusa-form can yet 

Fig. 2. Bougainvillea fruticosa; natural size. (After Allman.) 

be detected ; others, in which the outlines of 
the Medusa can be distinctly traced within 
the transparent ectotheque (external layer) ; 
others, again, just casting off this thin outer 
pellicle, and others completely freed from it, 
struggling with convulsive efforts to break 
loose from the colony, and finally launched 

'TNT 17 BE 





forth in the full enjoyment of their freedom 
into the surrounding water. I know of no 

Fig. 3. Bougainvillea fruticosa; magnified to show development. 

form in which so many of the characteristic 
features of a typical hydroid are more finely 
expressed than in this beautiful species." 


Fig. 4 represents the Medusa or free form 
of this beautiful species. 

If we pass to another 
great group of Zoophytes, 
that of the Jelly-fishes, 
we have a very similar 
case. For our first knowl- 
edge of the life-history 
of these Zoophytes we 
are indebted to the Nor- 
wegian naturalist Sars. 
Take, for instance, the 
common Jelly-fish (Me- 

dusa auHta) (Fig. 5) Of Fig. 4. Bougainvillea 

fruticosa, Medusa-form. 

our shores. 

The egg is a pear-shaped body (/), covered 
with fine hairs, by the aid of which it swims 
about, the broader end in front. After a 
while it attaches itself, not as might have 
been expected by the posterior but by the 
anterior extremity (2). The cilia then dis- 
appear, a mouth is formed at the free end, 
tentacles, first four (j>), then eight, and at 
length as many as thirty (^), are formed, and 
the little creature resembles in essentials the 
freshwater polyp (Hydra) of our ponds. 




At the same time transverse wrinkles (4) 
are formed round the body, first near the 
free extremity and then gradually descend- 
ing. They become deeper and deeper, and 
develop lobes or divisions one under the other, 

Fig. 5. Medusa aurita, and progressive stages of development. 

as at 5. After a while the top ring (and 
subsequently the others one by one) detaches 
itself, swims away, and gradually develops 
into a Medusa (6). Thus, then, the life-his- 
tory is very similar to that of the Hydroids, 
only that while in the Hydroids the fixed 
condition is the more permanent, and the free 


swimming more transitory, in the Medusae, on 
the contrary, the fixed condition is apparently 
only a phase in the production of the free 
swimming animal. In both the one and the 
other, however, the egg gives rise not to one 
but to many mature animals. Steenstrup has 
given to these curious phenomena, many other 
cases of which occur among the lower animals, 
and to which he first called attention, the 
name of alternations of generations. 

In the life-history of Infusoria (so called 
because they swarm in most animal or vege- 
table infusions) similar difficulties encounter 
us. The little creatures, many of which are 
round or oval in form, from time to time 
become constricted in the middle ; the con- 
striction becomes deeper and deeper, and at 
length the two halves twist themselves apart 
and swim away. In this case, therefore, there 
was one, and there are now two exactly sim- 
ilar ; but are these two individuals ? They 
are not parent and offspring that is clear, 
for they are of the same age ; nor are they 
twins, for there is no parent. As already 
mentioned, we regard the Caterpillar, Chrys- 


alls, and Butterfly as stages in the life-history 
of a single individual. But among Zoophytes, 
and even among some insects, one larva often 
produces several mature forms. In some 
species these mature forms remain attached to 
the larval stock, and we might be disposed to 
regard the whole as one complex organism. 
But in others they detach themselves and lead 
an independent existence. 

These considerations then introduce much 
difficulty into our conception of the idea of an 


But, further than this, we are confronted by 
by another problem. If we regard a mass of 
coral as an individual because it arises by 
continuous growth from a single egg, then it 
follows that some corals must be thousands of 
years old. 

Some of the lower animals may be cut into 
pieces, and each piece will develop into an 


entire organism. In fact the realisation of 
the idea of an individual gradually becomes 
more and more difficult, and the continuity of 
existence, even among the highest animals, 
gradually forces itself upon us. I believe 
that as we become more rational, as we real- 
ise more fully the conditions of existence, 
this consideration is likely to have important 
moral results. 

It is generally considered that death is the 
common lot of all living beings. But is this 
necessarily so ? Infusoria and other unicellu- 
lar animals multiply by division. That is to 
say, if we watch one for a certain time, we 
shall observe, as already mentioned, that a 
constriction takes place, which grows gradu- 
ally deeper and deeper, until at last the two 
halves become quite detached, and each 
swims away independently. The process is 
repeated over and over again, and in this 
manner the species is propagated. Here ob- 
viously there is no birth and no death. Such 
creatures may be killed, but they have no 
natural term of life. They are, in fact, theo- 


retically immortal. Those which lived mil- 
lions of years ago may have gone on dividing 
and subdividing, and in this sense multitudes 
of the lower animals are millions of years 



Flower in the crannied wall, 

I pluck you out of the crannies, 

I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, 

Little flower but if I could understand 

What you are, root and all, and all in all, 

I should know what God and man is. 




WE are told that in old days the Fairies 
used to give presents of Flowers and Leaves to 
those whom they wished to reward, or whom 
they loved best ; and though these gifts were, 
it appears, often received with disappoint- 
ment, still it will probably be admitted that 
flowers have contributed more to the happi- 
ness of our lives than either gold or silver or 
precious stones"; and that our happiest days 
have been spent out-of-doors in the woods and 
fields, when we have 

. . . found in every woodland way 
The sunlight tint of Fairy Gold. 1 

To many minds Flowers acquired an ad- 
ditional interest when it was shown that 

1 Thomson. 



there was a reason for their colour, size, and 
form in fact, for every detail of their organ- 
isation. If we did but know all that the 
smallest flower could tell us, we should have 
solved some of the greatest mysteries of 
Nature. But we cannot hope to succeed 
even if we had the genius of Plato or Aris- 
totle without careful, patient, and rever- 
ent study. From such an inquiry we may 
hope much ; already we have glimpses, enough 
to convince us that the whole history will 
open out to us conceptions of the Universe 
wider and grander than any which the Imagi- 
nation alone would ever have suggested. 

Attempts to explain the forms, colours, and 
other characteristics of animals and plants 
are by no means new. Our Teutonic fore- 
fathers had a pretty story which explained 
certain points about several common plants. 
Balder, the God of Mirth and Merriment, was, 
characteristically enough, regarded as deficient 
in the possession of immortality. The other 
divinities, fearing to lose him, petitioned Thor 
to make him immortal, and the prayer was 
granted on condition that every animal and 


plant would swear not to injure him, To 
secure this object, Nanna, Balder's wife, 
descended upon the earth. Loki, the God 
of Envy, followed her, disguised as a crow 
(which at that time were white), and settled 
on a little blue flower, hoping to cover it up, 
so that Nanna might overlook it. The flower, 
however, cried out "forget-me-not, forget-me- 
not," and has ever since been known under 
that name. Loki then flew up into an oak 
and sat on a mistletoe. Here he was more 
successful. Nanna carried off the oath of 
the oak, but overlooked the mistletoe. She 
thought, however, and the divinities thought, 
that she had successfully accomplished her 
mission, and that Balder had received the gift 
of immortality. 

One day, supposing Balder proof, they 
amused themselves by shooting at him, post- 
ing him against a Holly. Loki tipped an 
arrow with a piece of Mistletoe, against which 
Balder was not proof, and gave it to Balder's 
brother. This, unfortunately, pierced him to 
the heart, and he fell dead. Some drops of 
his blood spurted on to the Holly, which 


accounts for the redness of the berries ; the 
Mistletoe was so grieved that she has ever' 
since borne fruit like tears ; and the crow, 
whose form Loki had taken, and which till 
then had been white, was turned black. 

This pretty myth accounts for several things, 
but is open to fatal objections. 

Recent attempts to explain the facts of 
Nature are not less fascinating, and, I think, 
more successful. 

Why then this marvellous variety ? this 
inexhaustible treasury of beautiful forms ? 
Does it result from some innate tendency in 
each species ? Is it intentionally designed to 
delight the eye of man ? Or has the form 
and size and texture some reference to the 
structure and organisation, the habits and 
requirements of the whole plant ? 

I shall never forget hearing Darwin's paper 
on the structure of the Cowslip and Primrose, 
after which even Sir Joseph Hooker compared 
himself to Peter Bell, to whom 

A primrose by a river's brim 
A yellow primrose was to him, 
And it was nothing more. 


We all, I think, shared the same feeling, and 
found that the explanation of the flower then 
given, and to which I shall refer again, in- 
vested it with fresh interest and even with 
new beauty. 

A regular flower, such, for instance, as a 
Geranium or a Pink, consists of four or more 
whorls of leaves, more or less modified : the 
lowest whorl is the Calyx, and the separate 
leaves of which it is composed, which however 
are sometimes united into a tube, are called 
sepals ; (2) a second whorl, the corolla, con- 
sisting of coloured leaves called petals, which, 
however, like those of the Calyx, are often 
united into a tube ; (3) of one or more sta- 
mens, consisting of a stalk or filament, and 
a head or anther, in which the pollen is pro- 
duced ; and (4) a pistil, which is situated in the 
centre of the flower, and at the base of which 
is the Ovary, containing one or more seeds. 

Almost all large flowers are brightly col- 
oured, many produce honey, and many are 

What, then, is the use and purpose of this 
complex organisation ? 


It is, I think, well established that the 
main object of the colour, scent, and honey of 
flowers is to attract insects, which are of use 
to the plant in carrying the pollen from flower 
to flower. 

In many species the pollen is, and no doubt 
it originally was in all, carried by the air. 
In these cases the chance against any given 
grain of pollen reaching the pistil of another 
flower of the same species is of course very 
great, and the quantity of pollen required is 
therefore immense. 

In species where the pollen is wind-borne 
as in most of our trees firs, oaks, beech, 
ash, elm, etc., and many herbaceous plants, 
the flowers are as a rule small and inconspic- 
uous, greenish, and without either scent or 
honey. Moreover, they generally flower early, 
so that the pollen may not be intercepted by 
the leaves, but may have a better chance of 
reaching another flower. And they produce 
an immense quantity of pollen, as otherwise 
there would be little chance that any would 
reach the female flower. Every one must 
have noticed the clouds of pollen produced by 


the Scotch Fir. When, on the contrary, the 
pollen is carried by insects, the quantity nec- 
essary is greatly reduced. Still it has been 
calculated that a Peony flower produces be- 
tween 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 pollen grains ; 
in the Dandelion, which is more specialised, 
the number is reduced to about 250,000 ; 
while in such a flower as the Dead-nettle it is 
still smaller. 

The honey attracts the insects ; while the 
scent and colour help them to find the flowers, 
the scent being especially useful at night, 
which is perhaps the reason why evening 
flowers are so sweet. 

It is to insects, then, that flowers owe 
their beauty, scent, and sweetness. Just as 
gardeners, by continual selection, have added 
so much to the beauty of our gardens, so to 
the unconscious action of insects is due the 
beauty, scent, and sweetness of the flowers of 
our woods and fields. 

Let us now apply these views to a few 
common flowers. Take, for instance, the 
White Dead-nettle. 

The corolla of this beautiful and familiar 


flower (Fig. 6) consists of a narrow tube, some- 
what expanded at the upper end (Fig. 7), 
where the lower lobe forms a platform, on 

each side of which is a 
small projecting tooth 
(Fig. 8, m). The upper 
portion of the corolla 
is an arched hood (co), 
under which lie four 
anthers (a a), in pairs, 
while between them, 
and projecting some- 
what downwards, is 
the pointed pistil (st) ; 
the tube at the lower 
part contains honey, 

Fig. 6. White Dead-nettle. 

and above the honey 
is a row of hairs running round the tube. 

Now, why has the flower this peculiar 
form ? What regulates the length of 
the tube ? What is the use of the arch ? 
What lesson do the little teeth teach 
us ? What advantage is the honey to the 
flower ? Of what use is the fringe of hairs ? 
Why does the stigma project beyond the 


anthers? Why is the corolla white, while 
the rest of the plant is green ? 

The honey of course serves to attract the 
Humble Bees by which the flower is fertilised, 
and to which it is especially adapted ; the 


Fig. 7. Fig. 8. 

white colour makes the flower more conspicu- 
ous ; the lower lip forms the stage on which 
the Bees may alight; the length of the tube 
is adapted to that of their proboscis ; its 
narrowness and the fringe of fine hairs exclude 
small insects which might rob the flower of 
its honey without performing any service in 
return ; the arched upper lip protects the 
stamens and pistil, and prevents rain-drops 
from choking up the tube and washing away 
the honey ; the little teeth are,, I believe, of 



no use to the flower in its present condition, 
they are the last relics of lobes once much 
larger, and still remaining so in some allied 
species, but which in the Dead-nettle, being 
no longer of any use, are gradually disap- 
pearing ; the height of the arch has refer- 
ence to the size of the Bee, being just so 
much above the alighting stage that the 
Bee, while sucking the honey, rubs its back 
against the hood and thus comes in contact 
first with the stigma and then with the 
anthers, the pollen-grains from which adhere 
to the hairs on the Bee's back, and are thus 
carried off to the next flower which the Bee 
visits, when some of them are then licked 
off by the viscid tip of the stigma. 1 

In the Salvias, the common blue Salvia of 
our gardens, for instance, a plant allied to 
the Dead-nettle, the flower (Fig. 9) is con- 
structed on the same plan, but the arch is 
much larger, so that the back of the Bee does 
not nearly reach it. The stamens, however, 
have undergone a remarkable modification. 
Two of them have become small and function- 

1 Lubbock, Flowers and Insects. 




less. In the other two the anthers or cells pro- 
ducing the pollen, which in most flowers form 
together a round knob or 
head at the top of the 
stamen, are separated by 
a long arm, which plays 
on the top of the stamen 
as on a hinge. Of these 
two arms one hangs down 
into the tube, closing the 
passage, while the other 
lies under the arched upper lip. When the 
Bee pushes its proboscis down the tube (Fig. 11) 


Fig. 10. 

Fig. 11. 

it presses the lower arm to one side, and the 
upper arm consequently descends, tapping the 


Bee on the back, and dusting it with pollen. 
When the flower is a little older the pistil 
(Fig. 9, p) has elongated so that the stigma 
(Fig. 10, st) touches the back of the Bee and 
carries off some of the pollen. This sounds a 
little complicated, but is clear enough if we 
take a twig or stalk of grass and push it 
down the tube, when one arm of each of the 
two larger stamens will at once make its 
appearance. It is one of the most beautiful 
pieces of plant mechanism which I know, 
and was first described by Sprengel, a poor 
German schoolmaster. 


At first sight it may seem an objection to 
the view here advocated that the flowers in 
some species as, for instance, the common 
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum), which, according 
to the above given tests, ought to be fertilised 
by insects are entirely closed. A little con- 
sideration, however, will suggest the reply. 
The Snapdragon is especially adapted for 


fertilisation by Humble Bees. The stamens 
and pistil are so arranged that smaller species 
would not effect the object. It is therefore 
an advantage that they should be excluded, 
and in fact they are not strong enough to 
move the spring. The Antirrhinum is, so to 
speak, a closed box, of which the Humble 
Bees alone possess the key. 


Other flowers such as the Furze, Broom, 
Laburnum, etc., are also opened by Bees. 
The petals lock more or less into one an- 
other, and the flower remains at first closed. 
When, however, the insect alighting on it 
presses down the keel, the flower bursts open, 
and dusts it with pollen. 


In the above cases the flower once opened 
does not close again. In others, such as the 
Sweet Pea and the Bird's-foot Lotus, Nature 


has been more careful. When the Bee alights 
it clasps the "wings" of the flower with its 
legs, thus pressing them down ; they are, 
however, locked into the " keel," or lower 
petal, which accordingly is also forced down, 
thus exposing the pollen which rubs against, 
and part of which sticks to, the breast of the 
Bee. When she leaves the flower the keel 
and wings rise again, thus protecting the rest 
of the pollen and keeping it ready until 
another visitor comes. It is easy to carry out 
the same process with the fingers. 


In the Primrose and Cowslip, again, we find 
quite a different plan. It had long been 
known that if a number of Cowslips or Prim- 
roses are examined, about half would be found 
to have the stigma at the top of the tube and 
the stamens half way down, while in the other 
half the stamens are at the top and the stigma 
half way down. These two forms are about 
equally numerous, but never occur on the 


same stock. They have been long known to 
children and gardeners, who call them thrum- 
eyed and pin-eyed. Mr. Darwin was the 
first to explain the significance of this curious 
difference. It cost him several years of 
patient labour, but when once pointed out it 
is sufficiently obvious. An insect thrusting its 



X 250 

Fig. 12. Fig. 13. 

Flower and Pollen of Primrose 

proboscis down a primrose of the long-styled 
form (Fig. 12) would dust its proboscis at a 
part (a) which, when it visited a short-styled 
flower (Fig. 13), would come just opposite 
the head of the pistil (st), and could not fail 
to deposit some of the pollen on the stigma. 
Conversely, an insect visiting a short-styled 
plant would dust its proboscis at a part farther 


from the tip ; which, when the insect subse- 
quently visited a long-styled flower, would 
again come just opposite to the head of the 
pistil. Hence we see that by this beautiful 
arrangement insects must carry the pollen of 
the long-styled form to the short-styled, and 
vice versa. 

The economy of pollen is not the only 
advantage which plants derive from these 
visits of Insects. A second and scarcely less 
important is that they tend to secure "cross 
fertilisation " ; that is to say, that the seed 
shall be fertilised by pollen from another 
plant. The fact that " cross fertilisation " is 
of advantage to the plant doubtless also 
explains the curious arrangement that in 
many plants the stamen and pistil do not 
mature at the same time the former having 
shed their pollen before the pistil is mature ; 
or, which happens less often, the pistil having 
withered before the pollen is ripe. In most 
Geraniums, Pinks, etc., for instance, and 
many allied species, the stamens ripen first, 
and are followed after an interval by the 



The Nottingham Catchfly (Silene nutans) 
is a very interesting case. The flower is 
adapted to be fertilised by Moths. Accord- 
ingly it opens towards evening, and as is 
generally the case with such flowers, is pale 
in colour, and sw^eet-scented. There are two 
sets of stamens, five in each set. The first 
evening that the flower opens one set of sta- 
mens ripen and expose their pollen. Towards 
morning these wither away, the flower shrivels 
up, ceases to emit scent, and looks as if it 
were faded. So it remains all next day. 
Towards evening it reopens, the second set of 
stamens have their turn, and the flower again 
becomes fragrant. By morning, however, the 
second set of stamens have shrivelled, and the 
flower is again asleep. Finally on the third 
evening it re-opens for the last time, the long 
spiral stigmas expand, and can hardly fail to 
be fertilised with the pollen brought by Moths 
from other flowers. 



In the hanging flowers of Heaths the sta- 
mens form a ring, and each one baars two 
horns. When the Bee inserts its proboscis 
into the flower to reach the honey, it is sure 
to press against one of these horns, the ring 
is dislocated, and the pollen falls on to the 
head of the insect. In fact, any number of 
other interesting cases might be mentioned. 


Bees are intelligent insects, and would soon 
cease to visit flowers which did not supply 
them with food. Flies, however, are more 
stupid, and are often deceived. Thus in our 
lovely little Parnassia, five of the ten stamens 
have ceased to produce pollen, but are pro- 
longed into fingers, each terminating in a 
shining yellow knob, which looks exactly like 
a drop of honey, and by which Flies are con- 


tinually deceived. Paris quadrifolia also 
takes them in with a deceptive promise of the 
same kind. Some foreign plants have livid 
yellow and reddish flowers, with a most offen- 
sive smell, and are constantly visited by Flies, 
which apparently take them for pieces of 
decaying meat. 

The flower of the common Lords 
and Ladies (Arum) of our hedges 
is a very interesting case. The 
narrow neck bears a number of 
hairs pointing downwards. The 
stamens are situated above the 
stigma, which comes to maturity 
first. Small Flies enter the flower 
apparently for shelter, but the hairs 
prevent them from returning, and 
they are kept captive until the 
anthers have shed their pollen. 

Fig. 14. Arum. 

Then, when the Flies have been 
well dusted, the hairs shrivel up, leaving a 
clear road, and the prisoners are permitted 
to escape. The tubular flowers of Aristolochia 
offer a very similar case. 



If the views here advocated are correct, it 
follows that the original flowers were small 
and green, as wind-fertilised flowers are even 
now. But such flowers are inconspicuous. 
Those which are coloured, say yellow or white, 
are of course much more visible and more 
likely to be visited by insects. I have else- 
where given my reasons for thinking that 
under these circumstances some flowers be- 
came yellow, that some of them became white, 
others subsequently red, and some finally blue. 
It will be observed that red and blue flowers 
are as a rule highly specialised, such as 
Aconites and Larkspurs as compared with 
Buttercups; blue Gentians as compared with 
yellow, etc. I have found by experiment 
that Bees are especially partial to blue and 

Tubular flowers almost always, if not 
always, contain honey, and are specially suited 
to Butterflies and Moths, Bees and Flies. 
Those which are fertilised by Moths generally 


come out in the evening, are often very sweetly 
scented, and are generally white or pale 
yellow, these colours being most visible in the 

Aristotle long ago noticed the curious fact 
that in each journey Bees confine themselves 
to some particular flower. This is an economy 
of labour to the Bee, because she has not to 
vary her course of proceeding. It is also an 
advantage to the plants, because the pollen 
is carried from each flower to another of the 
same species, and is therefore less likely to be 


After the flower comes the seed, often 
contained in a fruit, and which itself en- 
closes the future plant. Fruits and seeds 
are adapted for dispersion, beautifully and in 
various ways : some by the wind, being either 
provided with a wing, as in the fruits of many 
trees Sycamores, Ash, Elms, etc. ; or with 
a hairy crown or covering, as with Thistles, 
Dandelions, Willows, Cotton plant, etc. 


Some seeds are carried by animals ; either 
as food such as most edible fruits and seeds, 
acorns, nuts, apples, strawberries, raspberries, 
blackberries, plums, grasses, etc. or invol- 
untarily, the seeds having hooked hairs or 
processes, such as burrs, cleavers, etc. 

Some seeds are scattered by the plants 
themselves, as, for instance, those of many 
Geraniums, Violets, Balsams, Shamrocks, etc. 
Our little Herb Robert throws its seeds some 
25 feet. 

Some seeds force themselves into the 
ground, as those of certain grasses, Cranes'- 
bills (Erodiums), etc. 

Some are buried by the parent plants, 
as those of certain clovers, vetches, violets, 

Some attach themselves to the soil, as 
those of the Flax ; or to trees, as in the case 
of the Mistletoe. 


Again, as regards the leaves there can, I 
think, be no doubt that similar considerations 


of utility are applicable. Their forms are 
almost infinitely varied. To quote Rus kin's 
vivid words, they " take all kinds of strange 
shapes, as if to invite us to examine them. 
Star-shaped, heart-shaped, spear-shaped, arrow- 
shaped, fretted, fringed, cleft, furrowed, ser- 
rated, sinuated, in whorls, in tufts, in spires, 
in wreaths, endlessly expressive, deceptive, 
fantastic, never the same from foot-stalk to 
blossom, they seem perpetually to tempt our 
watchfulness and take delight in outstepping 
our wonder." 

But besides these differences of mere form, 
there are many others : of structure, texture, 
and surface ; some are scented or have a 
strong taste, or acrid juice, some are smooth, 
others hairy ; and the hairs again are of 
various kinds. 

I have elsewhere 1 endeavoured to explain 
some of the causes which have determined 
these endless varieties. In the Beech, for in- 
stance (Fig. 15), the leaf has an area of about 
3 square inches. The distance between the 
buds is about H inch, and the leaves lie in 

1 Flowers, Fruits, and Leaves. 


the general plane of the branch, which bends 
slightly at each internode. The basal half of 
the leaf fits the swell of 
the twig, while the upper 
half follows the edge of 
the leaf above ; and the 
form of the inner edge 
being thus determined, 
decides that of the outer 
one also. 

The weight, and con- 
sequently the size of the 
leaf, is limited by the 
strength of the twig ; and, 
again, in a climate such as 
ours it is important to plants to have their 
.leaves so arranged as to secure the maximum 
of light. Hence in leaves which lie parallel to 
the plane of the boughs, as in the Beech, the 
width depends partly on the distance between 
the buds; if the leaves were broader, they 
would overlap, if they were narrower, space 
would be wasted. Consequently the width 
being determined by the distance between the 
buds, and the size depending on the weight 


which the twig can safely support, the length 
also is determined. This argument is well 
illustrated by comparing the leaves of the 
Beech with those of the Spanish Chestnut. 
The arrangement is similar, and the distance 
between the buds being about the same, so is 
the width of the leaves. But the terminal 
branches of the Spanish Chestnut being much 
stronger, the leaves can safely be heavier ; 
hence the width being fixed, they grow in 
length and assume the well-known and 
peculiar sword-blade shape. 

In the Sycamores, Maples (Fig. 16), and 
Horse-Chestnuts the arrangement is altogether 
different. The shoots are stiff and upright 
with leaves placed at right angles to the 
branches instead of being parallel to them. 
The leaves are in pairs and decussate with 
one another ; while the lower ones have long 
petioles which bring them almost to the level 
of the upper pairs, the whole thus forming a 
beautiful dome. 

For leaves arranged as in the Beech the 
gentle swell at the base is admirably suited ; 
but in a crown of leaves such as those of the 


Sycamore, space would be wasted, and it is 
better that they should expand at once, so 
soon as their stalks have carried them free 
from the upper and inner leaves. 

In the Black Poplar the arrangement of 
the leaves is again quite different. The leaf 
stalk is flattened, so that the leaves hang 

Fig. 16. Acer platanoides. 

vertically. In connection with this it will 
be observed that while in most leaves the 
upper and under surfaces are quite unlike, in 
the Black Poplar on the contrary they are 
very similar. The stomata or breathing holes, 
moreover, which in the leaves of most trees 
are confined to the under surface, are in this 
species nearly equally numerous on both. 


The "Compass" Plant of the American 
prairies, a plant not unlike a small sunflower, 
is another species with upright leaves, which 
growing in the wide open prairies tend to point 
north and south, thus exposing both surfaces 
equally to the light and heat. Such a position 
also affects the internal structure of the leaf, 
the two sides becoming similar in structure, 
while in other cases the upper and under 
surfaces are very different. 

In the Yew the leaves are inserted close 
to one another, and are linear ; while in the 
Box they are further apart and broader. 
In other cases the width of the leaves is 
determined by what botanists call the " Phyl- 
lotaxy." Some plants have the leaves oppo- 
site, each pair being at right angles with the 
pairs above and below. 

In others they are alternate, and arranged 
round the stem in a spiral. In one very 
common arrangement the sixth leaf stands 
directly over the first, the intermediate ones 
forming a spiral which has passed twice round 
the stem. This, therefore, is known as the 
f arrangement. Common cases are J, ^, f, f , 


and T %. In the first the leaves are generally 
broad, in the f arrangement they are elliptic, 
in the 3% and more complicated arrangements 
nearly linear. The Willows afford a very 
interesting series. Salix herbacea has the ^ 
arrangement and rounded leaves, Salix caprea 
elliptic leaves and f, Salix pentandra lancet- 
shaped leaves and f , and S. incana linear leaves 
and a T % arrangement. The result is that 
whether the series consists of 2, 3, 5, 8, or 13 
leaves, in every case, if we look perpendicu- 
larly at a twig the leaves occupy the whole 

In herbaceous plants upright leaves as a 
rule are narrow, which is obviously an advan- 
tage, while prostrate ones are broad. 


Many aquatic plants have two kinds of 
leaves ; some more or less rounded, which 
float on the surface ; and others cut up into 
narrow segments, which remain below. The 
latter thus present a greater extent of surface. 


In air such leaves would be unable even to 
support their own weight, much less to 
resist the force of the wind. In still air, 
however, for the same reason, finely-divided 
leaves may be an advantage, while in exposed 
positions compact and entire leaves are more 
suitable. Hence herbaceous plants tend to 
have divided, bushes and trees entire, leaves. 
There are many cases when even in the same 
family low and herb-like species have finely- 
cut leaves, while in shrubby or ligneous ones 
they more or less resemble those of the Laurel 
or Beech. 

These considerations affect trees more than 
herbs, because trees stand more alone, while 
herbaceous plants are more affected by sur- 
rounding plants. Upright leaves tend to be 
narrow, as in the case of grasses ; horizontal 
leaves, on the contrary, wider. Large leaves 
are more or less broken up into leaflets, 
as in the Ash, Mountain-Ash, Horse-Chest- 
nut, etc. 

The forms of leaves depend also much on 
the- manner in which they are packed into the 


The leaves of our English trees, as I have 
already said, are so arranged as to secure the 
maximum of light ; in very hot countries the 
reverse is the case. Hence, in Australia, for 
instance, the leaves are arranged not hori- 
zontally, but vertically, so as to present, not 
their surfaces, but their edges, to the sun. 
One English plant, a species of lettuce, has 
the same habit. This consideration has led 
also to other changes. In many species the 
leaves are arranged directly under, so as to 
shelter, one another. The Australian species 
of Acacia have lost their true leaves, and 
the parts which in them we generally call 
leaves are in reality vertically-flattened leaf 

In other cases the stem itself is green, and 
to some extent replaces the leaves. In our 
common Broom we see an approach to this, 
and the same feature is more marked in 
Cactus. Or the leaves become fleshy, thus 
offering, in proportion to their volume, a 
smaller surface for evaporation. Of this the 
Stonecrops, Mesembryanthemum, etc., are 
familiar instances. Other modes of checking 


transpiration and thus adapting plants to dry 
situations are by the development of hairs, 
by the formation of chalky excretions, by 
the sap becoming saline or viscid, by the leaf 
becoming more or less rolled up, or protected 
by a covering of varnish. 

Our English trees are for the most part 
deciduous. Leaves would be comparatively 
useless in winter when growth is stopped by 
the cold ; moreover, they would hold the 
snow, and thus cause the boughs to be broken 
down. Hence perhaps the glossiness of Ever- 
green leaves, as, for instance, of the Holly, 
from which the snow slips off. In warmer 
climates trees tend to retain their leaves, and 
some species which are deciduous in the north 
become evergreen, or nearly so, in the south 
of Europe. Evergreen leaves are as a rule 
tougher and thicker than those which drop off 
in autumn ; they require more protection from 
the weather. But some evergreen leaves are 
much longer lived than others ; those of the 
Evergreen Oak do not survive a second year, 
those of the Scotch Pine live for three, of the 
Spruce Fir, Yew, etc., for eight or ten, of the 


Pinsapo even eighteen. As a general rule 
the Conifers with short leaves keep them on 
for several years, those with long ones for 
fewer, the length of the leaf being somewhat 
in the inverse ratio to the length of its life ; 
but this is not an invariable criterion, as other 
circumstances also have to be taken into con- 

Leaves with strong scent, aromatic taste, or 
acrid juice, are characteristic of dry regions, 
where they run especial danger of being eaten, 
and where they are thus more or less effec- 
tively protected. 


The hairs of plants are useful in various 
ways. In some cases (1) they keep off super- 
fluous moisture ; in others (2) they prevent 
too rapid evaporation ; in some (3) they serve 
as a protection against too glaring light ; in 
some (4) they protect the plant from brows- 
ing quadrupeds ; in others (5) from being 
eaten by insects ; or, (6) serve as a quickset 
hedge to prevent access to the flowers. 


In illustration of the first case I may refer 
to many alpine plants, the well-known Edel- 
weiss, for instance, where the woolly covering 
of hairs prevents the " stomata," or minute 
pores leading into the interior of the leaf, 
from being clogged up by rain, dew, or fog, 
and thus enable them to fulfil their functions 
as soon as the sun comes out. 

As regards the second case many desert and 
steppe-plants are covered with felty hairs, 
which serve to prevent too rapid evaporation 
and consequent loss of moisture. 

The woolly hairy leaves of the Mulleins 
(Verbascum) doubtless tend to protect them 
from being eaten, as also do the spines of 
Thistles, and those of Hollies, which, be it 
remarked, gradually disappear on the upper 
leaves which browsing quadrupeds cannot 

I have already alluded to the various ways 
in which flowers are adapted to fertilisation 
by insects. But Ants and other small creep- 
ing insects cannot effectually secure this object. 
Hence it is important that they should be ex- 
cluded, and not allowed to carry off the honey, 


for which they would perform no service in 
return. In many cases-, therefore, the open- 
ing of the flower is either contracted to a 
narrow passage, or is itself protected by a 
fringe of hairs. In others the peduncle, or 
the stalk of the plant, is protected by a hedge, 
or chevaux de frise, of hairs. 

In this connection I might allude to the 
many plants which are more or less viscid. 
This also is in most cases a provision to pre- 
clude creeping insects from access to the 

There are various other kinds of hairs to 
which I might refer glandular hairs, secre- 
tive hairs, absorbing hairs, etc. It is marvel- 
lous how beautifully the form and structure 
of leaves is adapted to the habits and require- 
ments of the plants, but I must not enlarge 
further on this interesting subject. 

The time indeed will no doubt come when 
we shall be able to explain every difference of 
form and structure, almost infinite as these 
differences are. 



The character of the vegetation is of course 
greatly influenced by that of the soil. In this 
respect granitic and calcareous regions offer 
perhaps the best marked contrast. 

There are in Switzerland two kinds of 
Rhododendrons, very similar in their flowers, 
but contrasted in their leaves : Rhododendron 
hirsuturn having them hairy at the edges as 
the name indicates ; while in R. ferrugineum 
they are rolled, but not hairy, at the edges, 
and become ferrugineous on the lower side. 
This species occurs in the granitic regions, 
where R. hirsutum does not grow. 

The Yarrows (Achillea) afford us a similar 
case. Achillea atrata and A. moschata will 
live either on calcareous or granitic soil, but 
in a district where both occur, A. atrata grows 
so much the more vigorously of the two if the 
soil is calcareous that it soon exterminates 
A. moschata; while in granite districts, on 
the contrary, A. moschata is victorious and 
A. atrata disappears. 


Every keen sportsman will admit that a 
varied " bag " has a special charm, and the 
botanist in a summer's walk may see at least 
a hundred plants in flower, all with either the 
interest of novelty, or the charm of an old 


In many cases the Seedlings afford us an 
interesting insight into the former condition 
of the plant. Thus the leaves of the Furze 
are reduced to thorns ; but those of the Seed- 
ling are herbaceous and trifoliate like those of 
the Herb Genet and other allied species, sub- 
sequent ones gradually passing into spines. 
This is evidence that the ancestors of the 
Furze bore leaves. 

Plants may be said to have their habits as 
well as animals. 


Many flowers close their petals during 
rain ; the advantage of which is that it pre- 
vents the honey and pollen from being spoilt 


or washed away. Everybody, however, has 
observed that even in fine weather certain 
flowers close at particular hours. This habit 
of going to sleep is surely very curious. Why 
should flowers do so ? In animals we can 
better understand it ; they are tired and 
require rest. But why should flowers sleep ? 
Why should some flowers do so, and not 
others ? Moreover, different flowers keep 
different hours. The Daisy opens at sunrise 
and closes at sunset, whence its name "day's- 
eye. ?> The Dandelion (Leontodon) is said to 
open about seven and to close about five ; 
Arenaria rubra to be open from nine to three ; 
the White Water Lily (Nymph sea), from about 
seven to four ; the common Mouse-ear Hawk- 
weed (Hieracium) from eight to three ; the 
Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis) to waken at 
seven and close soon after two ; Tragopogon 
pratensis to open at four in the morning, 
and close just before twelve, whence its 
English name, "John go to bed at noon." 
Farmers' boys in some parts are said to regu- 
late their dinner time by it. Other flowers, 
on the contrary, open in the evening. 


Now it is obvious that flowers which are 
fertilised by night-flying insects would derive 
no advantage from being open by day ; and 
on the other hand, that those which are 
fertilised by bees would gain nothing by 
being open at night. Nay it would be a 
distinct disadvantage, because it would render 
them liable to be robbed of their honey and 
pollen, by insects which are not capable of 
fertilising them. I have ventured to suggest 
then that the closing of flowers may have 
reference to the habits of insects, and it may 
be observed also in support of this, that wind- 
fertilised flowers do not sleep; and that many 
of those flowers which attract insects by 
smell, open and emit their scent at particular 
hours ; thus Hesperis matronalis and Lychnis 
vespertina smell in the evening, and Orchis 
bifolia is particularly sweet at night. 

But it is not the flowers only which 
" sleep " at night ; in many species the leaves 
also change their position, and Darwin has 
given strong reasons for considering that the 
object is to check transpiration and thus tend 
to a protection against cold. 



The behaviour of plants with reference to 
rain affords many points of much interest. 
The Germander Speedwell (Veronica) has two 
strong rows of hairs, the Chickweed (Stellaria) 
one, running down the stem and thus conduct- 
ing the rain to the roots. Plants with a main 
tap-root, like the Radish or the Beet, have 
leaves sloping inwards so as to conduct the 
rain towards the axis of the plant, and con- 
sequently to the roots ; while, on the contrary, 
where the roots are spreading the leaves slope 

In other cases the leaves hold the rain or 
dew drops. Every one who has been in the 
Alps must have noticed how the leaves of the 
Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla) form little cups 
containing each a sparkling drop of icy water. 
Kerner has suggested that owing to these cold 
drops, the cattle and sheep avoid the leaves. 



In many cases plants mimic others which 
are better protected than themselves. Thus 
Matricaria Chamomilla mimics the true Cham- 
omile, which from its bitterness is not eaten 
by quadrupeds. Ajuga Chamsepitys mimics 
Euphorbia Cyparissias, with which it often 
grows, and which is protected by its acrid 
juice. The most familiar case, however, is 
that of the Stinging and the Dead Nettles. 
They very generally grow together, and 
though belonging to quite different families 
are so similar that they are constantly mis- 
taken fr one another. Some Orchids have a 
curious resemblance to insects, after which 
they have accordingly been named the Bee 
Orchis, Fly Orchis, Butterfly Orchis, etc., but 
it has not yet been satisfactorily shown what 
advantage the resemblance is to the plant. 


The transference of pollen from plant to 


plant is by no means the only service which 
insects render. 

Ants, for instance, are in many cases very 
useful to plants. They destroy immense 
numbers of caterpillars and other insects. 
Forel observing a large Ants' nest counted 
more than 28 insects brought in as food per 
minute. In some cases Ants attach them- 
selves to particular trees, constituting a sort 
of bodyguard. A species of Acacia, described 
by Belt, bears hollow thorns, while each leaflet 
produces honey in a crater-formed gland at 
the base, as well as a small, sweet, pear- 
shaped body at the tip. In consequence it 
is inhabited by myriads of a small ant, which 
nests in the hollow thorns, and thus finds 
meat, drink, and lodging all provided for it. 
These ants are continually roaming over the 
plant, and constitute a most efficient body- 
guard, not only driving off the leaf-eating 
ants, but, in Belt's opinion, rendering the 
leaves less liable to be eaten by herbivorous 
mammalia. Delpino mentions that on one 
occasion he was gathering a flower of Clero- 
dendrum, when he was himself suddenly 
attacked by a whole army of small ants. 



In the cases above mentioned the relation 
between flowers and insects is one of mutual 
advantage. But this is by no means an in- 
variable rule. Many insects, as we all know, 
live on plants, but it came upon botanists as a 
surprise when our countryman Ellis first dis- 
covered that some plants catch and devour in- 
sects. This he observed in a North American 
plant Dionaea, the leaves of which are formed 
something like a rat-trap, with a hinge in the 
middle, and a formidable row of spines round 
the edge. On the surface are a few very sen- 
sitive hairs, and the moment any small insect 
alights on the leaf and touches one of these 
hairs the two halves of the leaf close up 
quickly and catch it. The surface then throws 
out a glutinous secretion, by means of which 
the leaf sucks up the nourishment contained 
in the insect. 

Our common Sun-dews (Drosera) are also 
insectivorous, the prey being in their case 


captured by glutinous hairs. Again, the Blad- 
derwort (Utricularia), a plant with pretty 
yellow flowers, growing in pools and slow 
streams, is so called because it bears a great 
number of bladders or utricles, each of which 
is a real miniature eel-trap, having an orifice 
guarded by a flap opening inwards which 
allows small water animals to enter, but pre- 
vents them from coming out again. The 
Butterwort (Pinguicula) is another of these 
carnivorous plants. 


While considering Plant life we must by 
no means confine our attention to the higher 
orders, but must remember also those lower 
groups which converge towards the lower 
forms of animals, so that in the present state 
of our knowledge the two cannot always be 
distinguished with certainty. Many of them 
differ indeed greatly from the ordinary con- 
ception of a plant. Even the comparatively 
highly organised Seaweeds multiply by means 


of bodies called spores, which an untrained 
observer would certainly suppose to be animals. 
They are covered by vibratile hairs or " cilia," 
by means of which they swim about freely in 
the water, and even possess a red spot which, 
as being especially sensitive to light, may be 
regarded as an elementary eye, and with the 
aid of which they select some suitable spot, to 
which they ultimately attach themselves. 

It was long considered as almost a charac- 
teristic of plants that they possessed no power 
of movement. This is now known to be an 
error. In fact, as Darwin has shown, every 
growing part of a plant is in continual and 
even constant rotation. The stems of climb- 
ing plants make great sweeps, and in other 
cases, when the motion is not so apparent, it 
nevertheless really exists. I have already 
mentioned that many plants change the posi- 
tion of their leaves or flowers, or, as it is 
called, sleep at night. 

The common Dandelion raises its head 
when the florets open, opens and shuts morn- 
ing and evening, then lies down again while 
the seeds are ripening, and raises itself a 


second time when they are ready to be carried 
away by the wind. 

Valisneria spiralis is a very interesting case. 
It is a native of European rivers, and the 
female flower has a long spiral stalk which 
enables it to float on the surface of the water. 
The male flowers have no stalks, and grow 
low down on the plant. They soon, however, 
detach themselves altogether, rise to the sur- 
face, and thus are enabled to fertilise the 
female flowers among which they float. The 
spiral stalk of the female flower then contracts 
and draws it down to the bottom of the water 
so that the seeds may ripen in safety. Many 
plants throw or bury their seeds. 

The sensitive plants close their leaves when 
touched, and the leaflets of Desmodium gyrans 
are continually revolving. I have already 
mentioned that the spores of seaweeds swim 
freely in the water by means of cilia. Some 
microscopic plants do so throughout a great 
part of their lives. 

A still lower group, the Myxomycetes, 
which resemble small, more or less branched, 
masses of jelly, and live in damp soil, among 


decaying leaves, under bark and in similar 
moist situations, are still more remarkably 
animal like. They are never fixed, but in 
almost continual movement, due to differences 
of moisture, warmth, light, or chemical action. 
If, for instance, a moist body is brought into 
contact with one of their projections, or 
" pseudopods," the protoplasm seems to roll 
itself in that direction, and so the whole 
organism gradually changes its place. So 
again, while a solution of salt, carbonate of 
potash, or saltpetre causes them to withdraw 
from the danger, an infusion of sugar, or tan, 
produces a flow of protoplasm towards the 
source of nourishment. In fact, in the same 
way it rolls over and round its food, absorbing 
what is nutritious as it passes along. In cold 
weather they descend into the soil, and one 
of them (OEthalium), which lives in tan pits, 
descends in winter to a depth of several 
feet. When about to fructify it changes its 
habits, seeks the light instead of avoiding it, 
climbs upwards, and produces its fruit above 



The total number of living species of 
plants may be roughly estimated at 500,000, 
and there is not one, of which we can 
say that the structure, uses, and life-history 
are yet fully known to us. Our museums 
contain large numbers which botanists have 
not yet had time to describe and name. 
Even in our own country not a year passes 
without some additional plant being discov- 
ered ; as regards the less known regions of 
the earth not half the species have yet been 
collected. Among the Lichens and Fungi 
especially many problems of their life-history, 
some, indeed, of especial importance to man, 
still await solution. 

Our knowledge of the fossil forms, more- 
over, falls far short even of that of existing 
species, which, on the other hand, they must 
have greatly exceeded in number. Every 
difference of form, structure, and colour has 
doubtless some cause and explanation, so that 
the field for research is really inexhaustible. 



" By day or by night, summer or winter, beneath trees 
the heart feels nearer to that depth of life which the far sky 
means. The rest of spirit, found only in beauty, ideal and 
pure, comes there because the distance seems within touch 
of thought." JEFFERIES. 



RURAL life, says Cicero, " is not delightful 
by reason of cornfields only and meadows, and 
vineyards and groves, but also for its gardens 
and orchards, for the feeding of cattle, the 
swarms of bees, and the variety of all kinds of 
flowers." Bacon considered that a garden is 
"the greatest refreshment to the spirits of 
man, without which buildings and palaces 
are but gross handyworks, and a man shall 
ever see, that when ages grow to civility and 
elegancy men come to build stately sooner 
than to garden finely, as if gardening were 
the greater perfection." 

No doubt " the pleasure which we take in a 
garden is one of the most innocent delights in 
human life." 1 Elsewhere there may be scat- 

1 The Spectator. 



tered flowers, or sheets of colour due to one or 
two species, but in gardens one glory follows 
another. Here are brought together all the 

quaint enamelled eyes, 

That on the green turf sucked the honeyed showers, 
And purple all the ground with vernal flowers. 
Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies, 
The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine, 
The white pink and the pansy freaked with jet, 
The glowing violet, 

The musk rose, and the well attired woodbine, 
With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head, 
And every flower that sad embroidery wears. 1 

We cannot, happily we need not try to, 
contrast or compare the beauty of gardens 
with that of woods and fields. 

And yet to the true lover of Nature wild 
flowers have a charm which no garden can 
equal. Cultivated plants are but a living 
herbarium. They surpass, no doubt, the 
dried specimens of a museum, but, lovely as 
they are, they can be no more compared with 
the natural vegetation of our woods and fields 
than the captives in the Zoological Gardens 
with the same wild species in their native 
forests and mountains. 

1 Milton. 


Often indeed, our woods and fields rival 
gardens even in the richness of colour. We 
have all seen meadows white with Narcissus, 
glowing with Buttercups, Cowslips, early 
purple Orchis, or Cuckoo Flowers ; cornfields 
blazing with Poppies; woods carpeted with 
Bluebells, Anemones, Primroses, and Forget- 
me-nots ; commons with the yellow Lady's 
Bedstraw, Harebells, and the sweet Thyme ; 
marshy places with the yellow stars of the 
Bog Asphodel, the Sun-dew sparkling with 
diamonds, Ragged Robin, the beautifully 
fringed petals of the Buckbean, the lovely 
little Bog Pimpernel, or the feathery tufts of 
Cotton Grass ; hedgerows with Hawthorn and 
Traveller's Joy, Wild Rose and Honeysuckle, 
while underneath are the curious leaves and 
orange fruit of the Lords and Ladies, the 
snowy stars of the Stitchwort, Succory, Yar- 
row, and several kinds of Violets ; while all 
along the banks of streams are the tall red 
spikes of the Loosestrife, the Hemp Agrimony, 
Water Groundsel, Sedges, Bulrushes, Flower- 
ing Rush, Sweet Flag, etc. 

Many other sweet names will also at once 


occur to us Snowdrops, Daffodils and Hearts- 
ease, Lady's Mantles and Lady's Tresses, 
Eyebright, Milkwort, Foxgloves, Herb Roberts, 
Geraniums, and among rarer species, at least 
in England, Columbines and Lilies. 

But Nature does not provide delights for 
the eye only. The other senses are not for- 
gotten. A thousand sounds many delight- 
ful in themselves, and all by association 
songs of birds, hum of insects, rustle of leaves, 
ripple of water, seem to fill the air. 

Flowers again are sweet, as well as lovely. 
The scent of pine woods, which is said to 
be very healthy, is certainly delicious, and 
the effect of Woodland scenery is good for 
the mind as well as for the body. 

"Resting quietly under an ash tree, with 
the scent of flowers, and the odour of green 
buds and leaves, a ray of sunlight yonder 
lighting up the lichen and the moss on the 
oak trunk, a gentle air stirring in the branches 
above, giving glimpses of fleecy clouds sailing 
in the ether, there comes into the mind a feel- 
ing of intense joy in the simple fact of living." l 

1 Jefferies. 


The wonderful phenomenon of phospho- 
rescence is not a special gift to the animal king- 
dom. Henry 0. Forbes describes a forest in 
Sumatra : " The stem of every tree blinked 
with a pale greenish-white light which un- 
dulated also across the surface of the ground 
like moonlight coming and going behind the 
clouds, from a minute thread-like fungus in- 
visible in the day-time to the unassisted eye ; 
and here and there thick dumpy mushrooms 
displayed a sharp, clear dome of light, whose 
intensity never varied or changed till the break 
of day ; long phosphorescent caterpillars -and 
centipedes crawled out of every corner, leaving 
a trail of light behind them, while fire-flies 
darted about above like a lower firmament." * 

Woods and Forests were to our ancestors 
the special scenes of enchantment. 

The great Ash tree Yggdrasil bound to- 
gether Heaven, Earth, and Hell. Its top 
reached to Heaven, its branches covered the 
Earth, and the roots penetrated into Hell. 
The three Normas or Fates sat under it, spin- 
ning the thread of life. 

1 Forbes, A Naturalist's Wanderings in the Eastern Archi- 


Of all the gods and goddesses of classical 
mythology or our own folk-lore, none were 
more fascinating than the Nature Spirits 
Elves and Fairies, Neckans and Kelpies, 
Pixies and Ouphes, Mermaids, Undines, Water 
Spirits, and all the Elfin world 

Which have their haunts in dale and piny mountain, 
Or forests, by slow stream or tingling brook. 

They come out, as we are told, especially on 
moonlight nights. But while evening thus 
clothes many a scene with poetry, forests are 
fairy land all day long. 

Almost any wood contains many and many 
a spot well suited for Fairy feasts ; where one 
might most expect to find Titania, resting, as 
once we are told, 

She lay upon a bank, the favourite haunt 
Of the Spring wind in its first sunshine hour, 
For the luxuriant strawberry blossoms spread 
Like a snow shower then, and violets 
Bowed down their purple vases of perfume 
About her pillow, linked in a gay band 
Floated fantastic shapes ; these were her guards, 
Her lithe and rainbow elves. 

The fairies have disappeared, and, so far as 


England is concerned, the larger forest 
animals have vanished almost as completely. 
The Elk and Bear, the Boar and Wolf have 
gone, the Stag has nearly disappeared, and 
but a scanty remnant of the original wild 
Cattle linger on at Chillingham. Still the 
woods teem with life ; the Fox and Badger, 
Stoat and Weasel, Hare and Rabbit, and 

The tawny squirrel vaulting through the boughs, 
Hawk, buzzard, jay, the mavis and the merle, 1 

the Owls and Nightjar, the Woodpecker, Nut- 
hatch, Magpie, Doves, and a hundred more. 

In early spring the woods are bright with 
the feathery catkins of the Willow, followed 
by the soft green of the Beech, the white or 
pink flowers of the Thorn, the pyramids of the 
Horse-chestnut, festoons of the Laburnum and 
Acacia, and the Oak slowly wakes from its 
winter sleep, while the Ash leaves long linger 
in their black buds. 

Under foot is a carpet of flowers Anem- 
ones, Cowslips, Primroses, Bluebells, and 

1 Tennyson. 


the golden blossoms of the Broom, which, 
however, while Gorse and Heather continue 
in bloom for months, " blazes for a week or 
two, and is then completely extinguished, like 
a fire that has burnt itself out." * 

In summer the tints grow darker, the birds 
are more numerous and full of life ; the air 
teems with insects, with the busy murmur of 
bees and the idle hum of flies, while the cool 
of morning and evening, and the heat of the 
day, are all alike delicious. 

As the year advances and the flowers wane, 
we have many beautiful fruits and berries, 
the red hips and haws of the wild roses, 
scarlet holly berries, crimson yew cups, the 
translucent berries of the Guelder Kose, 
hanging coral beads of the Black Bryony, 
feathery festoons of the Traveller's Joy, and 
others less conspicuous, but still exquisite in 
themselves acorns, beech nuts, ash keys, and 
many more. It is really difficult to say which 
are most beautiful, the tender greens of spring 
or the rich tints of autumn, which glow so 
brightly in the sunshine. 

1 Hamerton. 


Tropical fruits are even more striking. No 
one who has seen it can ever forget a grove of 
orange trees in full fruit ; while the more we 
examine the more we find to admire ; all per- 
fectly and exquisitely finished "usque ad 
ungues," perfect inside and outside, for 

Does in the Pomegranate close 
Jewels more rare than Ormus shows. 1 

In winter the woods are comparatively 
bare and lifeless, even the Brambles and 
Woodbine, which straggle over the tangle of 
underwood being almost leafless. 

Still even then they have a beauty and 
interest of their own; the mossy boles of the 
trees ; the delicate tracery of the branches 
which can hardly be appreciated when they 
are covered with leaves ; and under foot the 
beds of fallen leaves ; while the evergreens 
seem brighter than in summer ; the ruddy 
stems and rich green foliage of the Scotch 
Pines, and the dark spires of the Firs, seeming 
to acquire fresh beauty. 

i Marvell. 


Again in winter, though no doubt the 
living tenants of the woods are much less 
numerous, many of our birds being then far 
away in the dense African forests, on the 
other hand those which remain are much 
more easily visible. We can follow the birds 
from tree to tree, and the Squirrel from 
bough to bough. 

It requires little imagination to regard 
trees as conscious beings, indeed it is almost 
an effort not to do so. 

" The various action of trees rooting them- 
selves in inhospitable rocks, stooping to look 
into ravines, hiding from the search of glacier 
winds, reaching forth to the rays of rare sun- 
shine, crowding down together to drink at 
sweetest streams, climbing hand in hand 
among the difficult slopes, opening in sudden 
dances among the mossy knolls, gathering 
into companies at rest among the fragrant 
fields, gliding in grave procession over the 
heavenward ridges nothing of this can be 
conceived among the unvexed and unvaried 
felicities of the lowland forest; while to all 
these direct sources of greater beauty are 


added, first the power of redundance, the 
mere quantity of foliage visible in the folds 
and on the promontories of a single Alp 
being greater than that of an entire ]owland 
landscape (unless a view from some Cathedral 
tower) ; and to this charm of redundance, that 
of clearer visibility tree after tree being con- 
stantly shown in successive height, one behind 
another, instead of the mere tops and flanks 
of masses as in the plains ; and the forms of 
multitudes of them continually defined against 
the clear sky, near and above, or against 
white clouds entangled among their branches, 
instead of being confused in dimness of 
distance." l 

There is much that is interesting in the 
relations of one species to another. Many 
plants are parasitic upon others. The foliage 
of the Beech is so thick that scarcely anything 
will grow under it, except those spring plants, 
such as the Anemone and the Wood Butter- 
cup or Goldilocks, which flower early before 
the Beech is in leaf. 

There are other cases in which the reason 

1 Ruskin. 


for the association of species is less evident. 
The Larch and the Arolla (Finns Cembra) 
are close companions. They grow together 
in Siberia ; they do not occur in Scandinavia 
or Russia, but both reappear in certain Swiss 
valleys, especially in the cantons of Lucerne 
and Yalais and the Engadine. 

Another very remarkable case which has 
recently been observed is the relation existing 
between some of our forest trees and certain 
Fungi, the species of which have not yet 
been clearly ascertained. The root tips of the 
trees are as it were enclosed in a thin sheet 
of closely woven mycelium. It was at first 
supposed that the fungus was attacking the 
roots of the tree, but it is now considered 
that the tree and the fungus mutually benefit 
one another. The fungus collects nutriment 
from the soil, which passes into the tree and 
up to the leaves, where it is elaborated into 
sap, the greater part being utilized by the 
tree, but a portion reabsorbed by the fungus. 
There is reason to think that, in some cases 
at any rate, the mycelium is that of the 


The great tropical forests have a totally 
different character from ours. I reproduce 
here the plate from Kingsley's At Last. The 
trees strike all travellers by their magnificence, 
the luxuriance of their vegetation, and their 
great variety. Our forests contain compara- 
tively few species, whereas in the tropics we 
are assured that it is far from common to see 
two of the same species near one another. 
But while in our forests the species are few, 
each tree has an independence and individu- 
ality of its own. In the tropics, on the con- 
trary, they are interlaced and interwoven, so 
as to form one mass of vegetation ; many of 
the trunks are almost concealed by an under- 
growth of verdure, and intertwined by spiral 
stems of parasitic plants ; from tree to tree 
hang an inextricable network of lianas, and it 
is often difficult to tell to which tree the 
fruits, flowers, and leaves really belong. The 
trunks run straight up to a great height with- 
out a branch, and then form a thick leafy 
canopy far overhead ; a canopy so dense that 
even the blaze of the cloudless blue sky is 
subdued, one might almost say into a weird 


gloom, the effect of which is enhanced by the 
solemn silence. At first such a forest gives 
the impression of being more open than an 
English wood, but a few steps are sufficient 
to correct this error. There is a thick under- 
growth matted together by wiry creepers, and 
the intermediate space is traversed in all 
directions by lines and cords. 

The English traveller misses sadly the 
sweet songs of our birds, which are replaced 
by the hoarse chatter of parrots. Now and 
then a succession of cries even harsher and 
more discordant tell of a troop of monkeys 
passing across from tree to tree among the 
higher branches, or lower sounds indicate to 
a practised ear the neighbourhood of an ape, 
a sloth, or some other of the few mammals 
which inhabit the great forests. Occasionally 
a large blue bee hums past, a brilliant butter- 
fly flashes across the path, or a humming-bird 
hangs in the air over a flower like, as St. 
Pierre says, an emerald set in coral, but 
"how weak it is to say that that exquisite 
little being, whirring and fluttering in the air, 
has a head of ruby, a throat of emerald, and 


wings of sapphire, as if any triumph of the 
jeweller's art could ever vie with that spark- 
ling epitome of life and light." l 

Sir Wyville Thomson graphically describes 
a morning in a Brazilian forest : 

" The night was almost absolutely silent, 
only now and then a peculiarly shrill cry of 
some night bird reached us from the woods. 
As we got into the skirt of the forest the 
morning broke, but the reveil in a Brazilian 
forest is wonderfully different from the slow 
creeping on of the dawn of a summer morning 
at home, to the music of the thrushes answer- 
ing one another's full rich notes from neigh- 
bouring thorn-trees. Suddenly a yellow light 
spreads upwards in the east, the stars quickly 
fade, and the dark fringes of the forest and 
the tall palms show out black against the 
yellow sky, and almost before one has time to 
observe the change the sun has risen straight 
and fierce, and the whole landscape is bathed 
in the full light of day. But the morning is 
yet for another hour cool and fresh, and the 
scene is indescribably beautiful. The woods, 

1 Thomson, Voyage of the Challenger. 


so absolutely silent and still before., break at 
once into noise and movement. Flocks of 
toucans flutter and scream on the tops of the 
highest forest trees hopelessly out of shot, the 
ear is pierced by the strange wild screeches of 
a little band of macaws which fly past you 
like the wrapped-up ghosts of the birds on 
some gaudy old brocade." l 

Mr. Darwin tells us that nothing can be 
better than the description of tropical forests 
given by Bates. 

" The leafy crowns of the trees, scarcely 
two of which could be seen together of the 
same kind, were now far away above us, in 
another world as it were. We could only see 
at times, where there was a break above, the 
tracery of the foliage against the clear blue 
sky. Sometimes the leaves were palmate, or 
of the shape of large outstretched hands ; at 
others finely cut or feathery like the leaves of 
Mimosse. Below, the tree trunks were every- 
where linked together by sipos ; the woody 
flexible stems of climbing and creeping trees, 
whose foliage is far away above, mingled with 

1 Thomson, Voyage of the Challenger. 


that of the taller independent trees. Some 
were twisted in strands like cables, others had 
thick steins contorted in every variety of shape, 
entwining snake-like round the tree trunks or 
forming gigantic loops and coils among the 
larger branches ; others, again, were of zigzag 
shape, or indented like the steps of a staircase, 
sweeping from the ground to a giddy height." 
The reckless and wanton destruction of 
forests has ruined some of the richest countries 
on earth. Syria and Asia Minor, Palestine 
and the north of Africa were once far more 
populous than they are at present. They were* 
once lands "flowing with milk and honey," 
according to the picturesque language of the 
Bible, but are now in many places reduced to 
dust and ashes. Why is there this melancholy 
change ? Why have deserts replaced cities ? 
It is mainly owing to the ruthless destruction 
of the trees, which has involved that of 
nations. Even nearer home a similar process 
may be witnessed. Two French departments 
the Haute s- and Basses- Alpes are being 
gradually reduced to ruin by the destruction 
of the forests. Cultivation is diminishing, 


vineyards are being washed away, the towns 
are threatened, the population is dwindling, 
and unless something is done the country will 
be reduced to a desert ; until, when it has 
been released from the destructive presence of 
man, Nature reproduces a covering of vege- 
table soil, restores the vegetation, creates the 
forests anew, and once again fits these regions 
for the habitation of man. 

In another part of France we have an illus- 
tration of the opposite process. 

The region of the Landes, which fifty years 
ago was one of the poorest and most miserable 
in France, has now been made one of the most 
prosperous owing to the planting of Pines. 
The increased value is estimated at no less 
than 1,000,000,000 francs. Where there were 
fifty years ago only a few thousand poor and 
unhealthy shepherds whose flocks pastured on 
the scanty herbage, there are now sawmills, 
charcoal kilns, and turpentine works, inter- 
spersed with thriving villages and fertile agri- 
cultural lands. 

In our own country, though woodlands are 
perhaps on the increase, true forest scenery is 


gradually disappearing. This is, I suppose, un- 
avoidable, but it is a matter of regret. Forests 
have so many charms of their own. They give 
a delightful impression of space and of abun- 

The extravagance is sublime. Trees, as 
Jefferies says, " throw away handfuls of flower ; 
and in the meadows the careless, spendthrift 
ways of grass and flower and all things are not 
to be expressed. Seeds by the hundred million 
float with absolute indifference on the air. 
The oak has a hundred thousand more leaves 
than necessary, and never hides a single acorn. 
Nothing utilitarian everything on a scale oi 
splendid waste. Such noble, broadcast, open- 
armed waste is delicious to behold. Never 
was there such a lying proverb as ' Enough is 
as good as a feast.' Give me the feast ; give 
me squandered millions of seeds, luxurious 
carpets of petals, green mountains of oak- 
leaves. The greater the waste the greater 
the enjoyment the nearer the approach to 
real life." 

It is of course impossible here to give any 
idea of the complexity of structure of our 


forest trees. A slice across the stem of a 
tree shows many different tissues with more or 
less technical names, bark and cambium, med- 
ullary rays, pith, and more or less specialised 
tissue ; air-vessels, punctate vessels, woody 
fibres, liber fibres, scalar if or m vessels, and 
other more or less specialised tissues. 

Let us take a single leaf. The name is 
synonymous with anything very thin, so that 
we might well fancy that a leaf would consist 
of only one or two layers of cells. Far from 
it, the leaf is a highly complex structure. On 
the upper surface are a certain number of 
scattered hairs, while in the bud these are 
often numerous, long, silky, and serve to 
protect the young leaf, but the greater number 
fall off soon after the leaf expands. The hairs 
are seated on a layer of flattened cells the 
skin or epidermis. Below this are one or 
more layers of " palisade cells," the function 
of which seems to be to regulate the quantity 
of light entering the leaf. Under these again 
is the " parenchyme," several layers of more or 
less rounded cells, leaving air spaces and pas- 
sages between them. From place to place in 


the parenchyme run "fibre-vascular bundles," 
forming a sort of skeleton to the leaf, and 
comprising air-vessels on the upper side, rayed 
or dotted vessels with woody fibre below, and 
vessels of various kinds. The under surface 
of the leaf is formed by another layer of 
flattened cells, supporting generally more or 
less hairs, and some of them specially modi- 
fied so as to leave minute openings or 
" stomata " leading into the air passages. 
These stomata are so small that there are 
millions on a single leaf, and on plants growing 
in dry countries, such as the Evergreen Oak, 
Oleander, etc., they are sunk in pits, and fur- 
ther protected by tufts of hair. 

The cells of the leaf again are themselves 
complex. They consist of a cell wall per- 
forated by extremely minute orifices, of pro- 
toplasm, cell fluid, and numerous granules 
of " Chlorophyll," which give the leaf its 
green colour. 

While these are, stated very briefly, the 
essential parts of a leaf, the details differ in 
every species, while in the same species and 
even in the same plant, the leaves, present 


minor differences according to the situation 
in which they grow. 

Since, then, there is so much complex 
structure in a single leaf, what must it be in a 
whole plant ? There is a giant seaweed (Mac- 
rocystis), which has been known to reach a 
length of 1000 feet, as also do some of the 
lianas of tropical forests. These, however, 
attain no great bulk, and the most gigantic 
specimens of the vegetable kingdom yet 
known are the Wellingtonia (Sequoia) gigan- 
tea, which grows to a height of 450 feet, and 
the Blue Gum (Eucalyptus) even to 480. 

One is apt to look on animal structure as 
more delicate, and of a higher order, than 
that of plants. And so no doubt it is. Yet 
an animal, even man himself, will recover 
from a wound or an operation more rapidly 
and more perfectly than a tree. 1 

Trees again derive a special interest from 
the venerable age they attain. In some cases, 
no doubt, the age is more or less mythical, as, 
for instance, the Olive of Minerva at Athens, 
the Oaks mentioned by Pliny, "which were 

1 Sir J. Paget, On the Pathology of Plants. 


thought coeval with the world itself," the 
Fig tree, " under which the wolf suckled the 
founder of Rome and his brother, lasting (as 
Tacitus calculated) 840 years, putting out 
new shoots, and presaging the translation of 
that empire from the Caesarian line, happen- 
ing in Nero's reign." 1 But in other cases the 
estimates rest on a surer foundation, and it 
cannot be doubted that there are trees still 
living which were already of considerable size 
at the time of the Conquest. The Soma 
Cypress of Lombardy, which is 120 feet high 
and 23 in circumference, is calculated to go 
back to forty years before the birth of Christ. 
Francis the First is said to have driven his 
sword into it in despair after the battle of 
Padua, and Napoleon altered his road over the 
Simplon so as to spare it. 

Ferdinand and Isabella in 1476 swore 
to maintain the privileges of the Biscayans 
under the old Oak of Guernica. In the 
Ardennes an Oak cut down in 1824 con- 
tained a funeral urn and some Samnite 
coins. A writer at the time drew the conclu- 

1 Evelyn's Sylva. 


sion that it must have been already a large 
tree when Rome was founded, and though the 
facts do not warrant this conclusion, the tree 
did, no doubt, go back to Pagan times. The 
great Yew of Fountains Abbey is said to have 
sheltered the monks when the abbey was re- 
built in 1133, and is estimated at an age of 
1300 years: that at Brabourne in Kent at 
3000. De Candolle gives the following as the 
ages attainable : 

The Ivy 450 years 

Larch ..... 570 " 

Plane 750 

Cedar of Lebanon ... 800 

Lime 1100 

Oak 1500 

Taxodium distichum . . . 4000 to 6000 

Baobab 6000 years 

Nowhere is woodland scenery more beau- 
tiful than where it passes gradually into the 
open country. The separate trees, having 
more room both for their roots and branches, 
are finer, and can be better seen, while, when 
they are close together, " one cannot see the 
wood for the trees." The vistas which open 
out are full of mystery and of promise, 


and tempt us gradually out into the green 

What pleasant memories these very words 
recall, games in the hay as children, and sunny 
summer days throughout life. 

" Consider," says Ruskin, 1 " what we owe 
to the meadow grass, to the covering of the 
dark ground by that glorious enamel, by 
the companies of those soft countless and 
peaceful spears. The fields ! Follow but 
forth for a little time the thought of all that 
we ought to recognise in those words. All 
spring and summer is in them the walks 
by silent scented paths, the rests in noonday 
heat, the joy of herds and flocks, the power 
of all shepherd life and meditation, the life of 
sunlight upon the world, falling in emerald 
streaks, and soft blue shadows, where else it 
would have struck on the dark mould or 
scorching dust, pastures beside the pacing 
brooks, soft banks and knolls of lowly hills, 
thymy slopes of down overlooked by the blue 
line of lifted sea, crisp lawns all dim with 
early dew, or smooth in evening warmth of 

1 Modern Painters. 


barred sunshine, dinted by happy feet, and 
softening in their fall the sound of loving 

" Go out, in the spring time, among the 
meadows that slope from the shores of the 
Swiss lakes to the roots of their lower moun- 
tains. There, mingled with the taller gentians 
and the white narcissus, the grass grows deep 
and free, and as you follow the winding 
mountain paths, beneath arching boughs all 
veiled and dim with blossom, paths, that for 
ever droop and rise over the green banks and 
mounds sweeping down in scented undulation, 
steep to the blue water, studded here and 
there with new mown heaps, filling all the 
air with fainter sweetness, look up towards 
the higher hills, where the waves of everlast- 
ing green roll silently into their long inlets 
among the shadow r s of the pines ; and we may, 
perhaps, at last know the meaning of those 
quiet words of the 147th Psalm, ' He maketh 
the grass to grow upon the mountains.' ' 

"On fine days," he tells us again in his 
Autobiography, " when the grass was dry, I 


used to lie down on it, and draw the blades 
as they grew, with the ground herbage of 
buttercup or hawkweed mixed among them, 
until every square foot of meadow, or mossy 
bank, became an infinite picture and posses- 
sion to me, and the grace and adjustment to 
each other of growing leaves, a subject of 
more curious interest to me than the com- 
position of any painter's masterpieces." 

In the passage above quoted, Ruskin alludes 
especially to Swiss meadows. They are espe- 
cially remarkable in the beauty and variety of 
flowers. In our fields the herbage is mainly 
grass, and if it often happens that they glow 
with Buttercups or are white with Ox-eye- 
daisies, these are but unwelcome intruders 
and add nothing to the value of the hay. 
Swiss meadows, on the contrary, are sweet 
and lovely with wild Geraniums, Harebells, 
Bluebells, Pink Restharrow, Yellow Lady's 
Bedstraw, Chervil, Eyebright, Red and White 
Silenes, Geraniums, Gentians, and many other 
flowers which have no familiar English names ; 
all adding not only to the beauty and sweetness 
of the meadows, but forming a valuable part 


of the crop itself. 1 On the other hand " turf " 
is peculiarly English, and no turf is more de- 
lightful than that of our Downs delightful 
to ride on, to sit on, or to walk on. The turf 
indeed feels so springy under our feet that 
walking on it seems scarcely an exertion : one 
could almost fancy that the Downs themselves 
were still rising, even higher, into the air. 

The herbage of the Downs is close rather 
than short, hillocks of sweet thyme, tufts of 
golden Potentilla, of Milkwort blue, pink, 
and white of sweet grass and Harebells : 
here and there pink with Heather, or golden 
with Furze or Broom, while over all are the 
fresh air and sunshine, sweet scents, and the 
hum of bees. And if the Downs seem full of 
life and sunshine, their broad shoulders are 
types of kindly strength, they give also an 
impression of power arid antiquity, while every 
now and then we come across a tumulus, or a 
group of great grey stones, the burial place of 
some ancient hero, or a sacred temple of our 
pagan forefathers. 

1 M. Correvon informs me that the Gruyere cheese is supposed 
to owe its peculiar flavour to the alpine Alchemilla, which is now 
on that account often purposely sown elsewhere. 


On the Downs indeed things change slowly, 
and in parts of Sussex the strong slow oxen 
still draw the waggons laden with warm hay 
or golden wheat sheaves, or drag the wooden 
plough along the slopes of the Downs, just as 
they did a thousand years ago. 

I love the open Down most, but without 
hedges England would not be England. 
Hedges are everywhere full of beauty and 
interest, and nowhere more so than at the 
foot of the Downs, when they are in great 
part composed of wild Guelder Roses and rich 
dark Yews, decked with festoons of Travel- 
ler's Joy, the wild Bryonies, and garlands of 
Wild Roses covered with thousands of white 
or delicate pink flowers, each with a centre of 

At the foot of the Downs spring clear spark- 
ling streams ; rain from heaven purified still 
further by being filtered through a thousand 
feet of chalk ; fringed with purple Loosestrife 
and Willowherb, starred with white Water 
Ranunculuses, or rich Watercress, while every 
now and then a brown water rat rustles in 
the grasses at the edge, and splashes into 


the water, or a pink speckled trout glides 
out of sight. 

In many of our midland and northern 
counties most of the meadows lie in parallel 
undulations or "rigs." These are generally 
about a furlong (220 yards) in length, and 
either one or two poles (51 or 11 yards) in 
breadth. They seldom run straight, but tend 
to curve towards the left. At each end of 
the field a high bank, locally called a balk, 
often 3 or 4 feet high, runs at right angles to 
the rigs. In small fields there are generally 
eight, but sometimes ten, of these rigs, which 
make in the one case 4, in the other 5 acres. 
These curious characters carry us back to the 
old tenures, and archaic cultivation of land, 
and to a period when the fields were not in 
pasture, but were arable. 

They also explain our curious system of 
land measurement. The " acre " is the amount 
which a team of oxen were supposed to plough 
in a day. It corresponds to the German 
" morgen " and the French " journee." The 
furlong or long "furrow" is the distance 
which a team of oxen can plough conven- 


iently without stopping to rest. Oxen, as we 
know, were driven not with a whip, but with 
a goad or pole, the most convenient length for 
which was 16i feet, and the ancient plough- 
man used his "pole" or "perch" by placing 
it at right angles to his first furrow, thus 
measuring the amount he had to plough. 
Hence our "pole" or "perch" of 161 feet, 
which at first sight seems a very singular 
unit to have selected. This width is also con- 
venient both for turning the plough, and also 
for sowing. Hence the most convenient unit 
of land for arable purposes was a furlong in 
length and a perch or pole in width. 

The team generally consisted of eight oxen. 
Few peasants, however, possessed a whole 
team, several generally joining together, and 
dividing the produce. Hence the number of 
" rigs," one for each ox. We often, however, 
find ten instead of eight ; one being for the 
parson's tithe, the other tenth going to the 

When eight oxen were employed the goad 
would not of course reach the leaders, which 
were guided by a man who walked on the 


near side. On arriving at the end of each 
furrow he turned them round, and as it was 
easier to pull than to push them, this gradu- 
ally gave the furrow a turn towards the left, 
thus accounting for the slight curvature. 
Lastly, while the oxen rested on arriving at 
the end of the furrow, the ploughmen scraped 
off the earth which had accumulated on the 
coulter and ploughshare, and the accumulation 
of these scrapings gradually formed the balk. 

It is fascinating thus to trace indications 
of old customs and modes of life, but it would 
carry us away from the present subject. 

Even though the Swiss meadows may offer 
a greater variety, our English fields are yet 
rich in flowers : yellow with Cowslips and 
Primroses, pink with Cuckoo flowers and 
purple with Orchis, while, however, unwel- 
come to the eye of the farmer, 

the rich Buttercup 
Its tiny polished urn holds up, 
Filled with ripe summer to the edge, 1 

turning many a meadow into a veritable field 
of the cloth of gold, and there are few prettier 

ij. R. Lowell. 


sights in nature than an English hay field on 
a summer evening, with a copse perhaps at 
one side and a brook on the other ; men with 
forks tossing the hay in the air to dry; 
women with wooden rakes arranging it in 
swathes ready for the great four-horse wag- 
gon, or collecting it in cocks for the night ; 
while some way off the mowers are still at 
work, and we hear from time to time the 
pleasant sound of the whetting of the scythe. 
All are working with a will lest rain should 
come and their labour be thrown away. This 
too often happens. But though we often com- 
plain of our English climate, it is yet, take 
it all in all, one of the best in the world, 
being comparatively free from extremes either 
of heat or cold, drought or deluge. To the 
happy mixture of sunshine and of rain we 
owe the greenness of our fields, 

sparkling with dewdrops 
Indwelt with little angels of the Sun, l 

lit and 

warmed by golden sunshine 
And fed by silver rain, 

which now and again sprinkles the whole earth 
with diamonds. 

1 Hamerton. 



Mountains " seem to have been built for the human race, 
as at once their schools and cathedrals ; full of treasures of 
illuminated manuscript for the scholar. t kindly in simple 
lessons for the worker, quiet in pale cloisters for the thinker, 
glorious in holiness for the worshipper. They are great 
cathedrals of the earth, with their gates of rock, pavements of 
cloud, choirs of stream and stone, altars of snow, and vaults 
of purple traversed by the continual stars." RUSKIN. 




THE Alps are to many of us an inexhaustible 
source of joy and peace, of health, and even of 
life. We have gone to them jaded and worn, 
feeling, perhaps without any external cause, 
anxious and out of spirits, and have returned 
full of health, strength, and energy. Among 
the mountains Nature herself seems freer and 
happier, brighter and purer, than elsewhere. 
The rush of the rivers, and the repose of the 
lakes, the pure snowfields and majestic glaciers, 
the fresh air, the mysterious summits of the 
mountains, the blue haze of the distance, the 
morning tints and the evening glow, the beauty 
of the sky and the grandeur of the storm, have 
all refreshed and delighted us time after time, 
and their memories can never fade away. 



Even now as I write comes back to me the 
bright vision of an Alpine valley blue sky 
above, glittering snow, bare grey or rich red 
rock, dark pines here and there, mixed with 
bright green larches, then patches of smooth 
alp, with clumps of birch and beech, and dotted 
with brown chalets ; then below them rock again, 
and 'wood, but this time with more deciduous 
trees ; and then the valley itself, with emer- 
ald meadows, interspersed with alder copses, 
threaded together by a silver stream ; and I 
almost fancy I can hear the tinkling of distant 
cowbells coming down from the alp, and the 
delicious murmur of the rushing water. The 
endless variety, the sense of repose and yet of 
power, the dignity of age, the energy of youth, 
the play of colour, the beauty of form, the 
mystery of their origin, all combine to invest 
mountains with a solemn beauty. 

I feel with Ruskin that " mountains are the 
beginning and the end of all natural scenery ; 
in them, and in the forms of inferior landscape 
that lead to them, my affections are wholly 
bound up ; and though I can look with happy 
admiration at the lowland flowers, and woods, 


and open skies, the happiness is tranquil and 
cold, like that of examining detached flowers 
in a conservatory, or reading a pleasant book." 
And of all mountain views which he has seen, 
the finest he considers is that from the Mont- 
anvert : " I have climbed much and wandered 
much in the heart of the high Alps, but I have 
never yet seen anything which equalled the 
view from the cabin of the Montanvert." 

It is no mere fancy that among mountains 
the flowers are peculiarly large and brilliant 
in colour. Not only are there many beautiful 
species which are peculiar to mountains, 
alpine Gentians, yellow, blue, and purple ; 
alpine Rhododendrons, alpine Primroses and 
Cowslips, alpine Lychnis, Columbine, Monks- 
hood, Anemones, Narcissus, Campanulas, Sol- 
danellas, and a thousand others less familiar 
to us, but it is well established that even 
within the limits of the same species -those 
living up in the mountains have larger and 
brighter flowers than their sisters elsewhere. 

Various alpine species belonging to quite 
distinct families form close moss-like cushions, 
gemmed with star-like flowers, or covered 


completely with a carpet of blossom. On the 
lower mountain slopes and in alpine valleys 
trees seem to flourish with peculiar luxuriance. 
Pines and Firs and Larches above ; then, as we 
descend, Beeches and magnificent Chestnuts, 
which seem to rejoice in the sweet, fresh air 
and the pure mountain streams. 

To any one accustomed to the rich bird life 
of English woods and hedgerows, it must be 
admitted that Swiss woods and Alps seem 
rather lonely and deserted. Still the Hawk, 
or even Eagle, soaring high up in the air, the 
weird cry of the Marmot, and the knowledge 
that, even if one cannot see Chamois, they 
may all the time be looking down on us, give 
the Alps, from this point of view also, a 
special interest of their own. 

Another great charm of mountain districts 
is the richness of colour. " Consider, 1 first, 
the difference produced in the whole tone of 
landscape colour by the introductions of purple, 
violet, and deep ultra-marine blue which we 
owe to mountains. In an ordinary lowland 
landscape we have the blue of the sky ; the 

1 Ruskin. 


green of the grass, which I will suppose (and 
this is an unnecessary concession to the low- 
lands) entirely fresh and bright ; the green of 
trees ; and certain elements of purple, far 
more rich and beautiful than we generally 
should think, in their bark and shadows (bare 
hedges and thickets, or tops of trees, in sub- 
dued afternoon sunshine, are nearly perfect 
purple and of an exquisite tone), as well as in 
ploughed fields, and dark ground in general. 
But among mountains, in addition to all this, 
large unbroken spaces of pure violet and 
purple are introduced in their distances ; and 
even near, by films of cloud passing over the 
darkness of ravines or forests, blues are pro- 
duced of the most subtle tenderness ; these 
azures and purples passing into rose colour of 
otherwise wholly unattainable delicacy among 
the upper summits, the blue of the sky being 
at the same time purer and deeper than in the 
plains. Nay, in some sense, a person who 
has never seen the rose colour of the rays of 
dawn crossing a blue mountain twelve or 
fifteen miles away can hardly be said to know 
what tenderness in colour means at all ; bright 


tenderness he may, indeed, see in the sky or 
in a flower, but this grave tenderness of the 
far-away hill-purples he cannot conceive." 

" I do not know," he says elsewhere, " any 
district possessing a more pure or uninter- 
rupted fulness of mountain character (and 
that of the highest order), or which appears to 
have been less disturbed by foreign agencies, 
than that which borders the course of the 
Trient between Yalorsine and Martigny. The 
paths which lead to it, out of the valley of the 
Rhone, rising at first in steep circles among 
the walnut trees, like winding stairs among 
the pillars of a Gothic tower, retire over the 
shoulders of the hills into a valley almost 
unknown, but thickly inhabited by an indus- 
trious and patient population. Along the 
ridges of the rocks, smoothed by old glaciers, 
into long, dark, billowy swellings, like the 
backs of plunging dolphins, the peasant 
watches the slow colouring of the tufts of moss 
and roots of herb, which, little by little, gather 
a feeble soil over the iron substance ; then, 
supporting the narrow strip of clinging ground 
with a few stones, he subdues it to the spade, 


and in a year or two a little crest of corn is 
seen waving upon the rocky casque." 

Tyndall, speaking of the scene from the 
summit of the Little Scheideck, 1 says : " The 
upper air exhibited a commotion which we 
did not experience ; clouds were wildly driven 
against the flanks of the Eiger, the Jungfrau 
thundered behind, while in- front of us a mag- 
nificent rainbow, fixing one of its arms in the 
valley of Grindelwald, and, throwing the 
other right over the crown of the Wetterhorn, 
clasped the mountain in its embrace. Through 
jagged apertures in the clouds floods of golden 
light were poured down the sides of the moun- 
tain. On the slopes were innumerable chalets, 
glistening in the sunbeams, herds browsing 
peacefully and shaking their mellow bells ; 
while the, blackness of the pine trees, crowded 
into woods, or scattered in pleasant clusters 
over alp and valley, contrasted forcibly with 
the lively green of the fields." 

Few men had more experience of moun- 
tains than Mr. Whymper, and from him, 
I will quote one remarkable passage de- 

1 The Glaciers of the Alps. 


scribing the view from the summit of the 
Matterhorn just before the terrible catastrophe 
which overshadows the memory of his first 

" The day was one of those superlatively 
calm and clear ones which usually precede 
bad weather. The atmosphere was perfectly 
still and free from all clouds or vapours. 
Mountains fifty, nay, a hundred miles off 
looked sharp and near. All their details 
ridge and crag, snow and glacier stood out 
with faultless definition. Pleasant thoughts 
of happy days in bygone years came up 
unbidden as we recognised the old familiar 
forms. All were revealed, not one of the 
principal peaks of the Alps was hidden. I see 
them clearly now, the great inner circle of 
giants, backed by the ranges, chains, and 
massifs. ... Ten thousand feet beneath us 
were the green fields of Zermatt, dotted with 
chalets, from which blue smoke rose lazily. 
Eight thousand feet below, on the other side, 
were the pastures of Breuil. There were black 
and gloomy forests ; bright and cheerful 
meadows, bounding waterfalls and tranquil 


lakes, fertile lands and savage wastes, sunny 
plains and frigid plateaux. There were the 
most rugged forms and the most graceful 
outlines, bold perpendicular cliffs and gentle 
undulating slopes ; rocky mountains and 
snowy mountains, sombre and solemn, or 
glittering and white, with walls, turrets, pin- 
nacles, pyramids, domes, cones, and spires ! 
There was every combination that the world 
can give, and every contrast that the heart 
could desire." 

These were summer scenes, but the 
Autumn and Winter again have a grandeur 
and beauty of their own. 

" Autumn is dark on the mountains ; grey 
mist rests on the hills. The whirlwind is 
heard on the heath. Dark rolls the river 
through the narrow plain. The leaves twirl 
round with the wind, and strew the grave of 
the dead." l 

Even bad weather often but enhances the 
beauty and grandeur of mountains. When 
the lower parts are hidden, and the peaks 
stand out above the clouds, they look much 

1 Ossian. 


loftier than if the whole mountain side is 
visible. The gloom lends a weirdness and 
mystery to the scene, while the flying clouds 
give it additional variety. 

Rain, moreover, adds vividness to the 
colouring. The leaves and grass become a 
brighter green, " every sunburnt rock glows 
into an agate," and when fine weather returns 
the new snow gives intense brilliance, and 
invests the woods especially with the beauty 
of Fairyland. How often in alpine districts 
does one long "for the wings of a dove," more 
thoroughly to enjoy and more completely to 
explore, the mysteries and recesses of the 
mountains. The mind, however, can go, even 
if the body must remain behind. 

Each hour of the day has a beauty of its 
own. The mornings and evenings again glow 
with different and even richer tints. 

In mountain districts the cloud effects are 
brighter and more varied than in flatter 
regions. The morning and evening tints are 
seen to the greatest advantage, and clouds 
floating high in the heavens sometimes glitter 
with the most exquisite iridescent hues 


that blush and glow 
Like angels' wings. 1 

On low ground one may be in the clouds, 
but not above them. But as we look down 
from mountains and see the clouds floating 
far below us, we almost seem as if we were 
looking down on earth from one of the heav- 
enly bodies. 

Not even in the Alps is there anything 
more beautiful than the "after glow" which 
lights up the snow and ice with a rosy tint 
for some time after the sun has set. Long 
after the lower slopes are already in the shade, 
the summit of Mont Blanc for instance is 
transfigured by the light of the setting sun 
glowing on the snow. It seems almost like 
a light from another world, and vanishes as 
suddenly and mysteriously as it came. 

As we look up from the valleys the 
mountain peaks seem Hke separate pinnacles 
projecting far above the general level. This, 
however, is a very erroneous impression, and 
when we examine the view from the top of 
any of the higher mountains, or even from 

1 Bullar, Azores. 


one of very moderate elevation, if well placed, 
such say as the well-known Piz Languard, we 
see that in many cases they must have once 
formed a dome, or even a table land, out of 
which the valleys have been carved. Many 
mountain chains were originally at least twice 
as high as they are now, and the highest 
peaks are those which have suffered least 
from the wear and tear of time. 

We used to speak of the everlasting hills, 
and are only beginning to realise the vast 
and many changes which our earth has un- 

There rolls the deep where grew the tree. 

O earth, what changes hast thou seen ! 

There where the long street roars, hath been 
The stillness of the central sea. 

The hills are shadows, and they flow 

From form to form, and nothing stands; 
They melt like mist, the solid lands, 

Like clouds they shape themselves and go. 1 


Geography moreover acquires' a new in- 
terest when we once realise that mountains 

1 Tennyson. 


are no mere accidents, but that for every 
mountain chain, for every peak and valley, 
there is a cause and an explanation. 

The origin of Mountains is a question of 
much interest. The building up of Volcanoes 
is even now going on before our eyes. Some 
others, the Dolomites for instance, have been 
regarded by Richthofen and other geologists 
as ancient coral islands. The long lines of 
escarpment which often stretch for miles across 
country, are now ascertained, mainly through 
the researches of Whitaker, to be due to the 
differential action of aerial causes. The gen- 
eral origin of mountain chains, however, was 
at first naturally enough attributed to direct 
upward pressure from below. To attribute 
them in any way to subsidence seems almost 
a paradox, and yet it appears to be now well 
established that the general cause is lateral 
compression, due to contraction of the under- 
lying mass. The earth, we know, has been 
gradually cooling, and as it contracted in doing 
so, the strata of the crust would necessarily be 
thrown into folds. When an apple dries and 
shrivels in winter, the surface becomes covered 




with ridges. Or again, if we place some sheets 
of paper between two weights on a table, and 
then bring the weights nearer together, the 
paper will be crumpled up. 

In the same way let us take a section of 
the earth's surface AB (Fig. 17), and suppose 
that, by the gradual cooling and consequent 
contraction of the mass, AB sinks to A'B', 

Fig. 17. Adapted from Ball's paper " On the Formation of Alpine Valleys 
and Lakes," Land, and Ed. Phil. Mag. 1863, p. 96. 

then to A"B", and finally to A'"B'". Of 
course if the cooling of the surface and of the 
deeper portion were the same, then the strata 
between A and B would themselves contract, 
and might consequently still form a regular 
curve between A"' and B'". As a matter of 
fact, however, the strata at the surface of our 
globe have long since approached a constant 
temperature. Under these circumstances 
there would be no contraction of the strata 
between A and B corresponding to that of 


those in the interior, and consequently they 
could not lie flat between A'" and B"', but 
must be thrown into folds, commencing along 
any line of least resistance. Sometimes in- 
deed the strata are completely inverted, as 
in Fig. 19, and in other cases they have 
been squeezed for miles out of their original 
position. This explanation was first, I be- 
lieve, suggested by Steno. It has been re- 
cently developed by Ball arid Suess, and espe- 
cially by Heim. In this manner it is probable 
that most mountain chains originated. 1 

The structure of mountain districts confirms 
this theoretical explanation. It is obvious 
of course that when strata are thrown into 
folds, they will, if strained too much, give 
way at the summit of the fold. Before doing 
so, however, they are stretched and conse- 
quently loosened, while on the other hand the 
strata at the bottom of the fold are compressed : 
the former, therefore, are rendered more sus- 
ceptible of disintegration, the latter on the 
contrary acquire greater powers of resistance. 

1 See especially Helm's great work, Unt. u. d. Mechanismus 
der Gebirgsbildung. 


Hence denudation will act with more effect 
on the upper than on the lower portion 
of the folds, and if continued long enough, 
so that, as shown in the above diagram, the 
dotted portion is removed, we find the origi- 
nal hill tops replaced by valleys, and the origi- 
nal valleys forming the hill tops. Every 
visitor to Switzerland must have noticed hills 
where the strata lie as shown in parts of Fig. 
18, and where it is obvious that strata corre- 
sponding to those in dots must have been origi- 
nally present. 

In the Jura, for instance, a glance at any 
good map of the district will show a succes- 
sion of ridges running parallel to one another 
in a slightly curved line from S.W. to N.E. 
That these ridges are due to folds of the 
earth's surface is clear from the following 
figure in Jaccard's work on the Geology of the 
Jura, showing a section from Brenets due 
couth to Neuchatel by Le Locle. These folds 
are comparatively slight and the hills of no 
great height. Further south, however, the 
strata are much more violently dislocated and 
compressed together. The Mont Saleve is the 
remnant of one of these ridges. 


In the Alps the contortions are much 
greater than in the Jura. Fig. 19 shows a 
section after Heim, from the Spitzen across 
the Brunnialp, and the Maderanerthal. It 
is obvious that the valleys are due mainly to 
erosion, that the Maderaner valley has been 
cut out of the crystalline rocks s, and was 
once covered by the Jurassic strata j, which 
must have formerly passed in a great arch 
over what is now the valley. 

However improbable it may seem that so 
great an amount of rock should have dis- 
appeared, evidence is conclusive. Ramsay has 
shown that in some parts of Wales not less 
than 29,000 feet have been removed, while 
there is strong reason for the belief that in 
Switzerland an amount has been carried away 
equal to the present height of the mountains ; 
though of course it does not follow that the 
Alps were once twice as high as they are at 
present, because elevation and erosion must 
have gone on contemporaneously. 

It has been calculated that the strata 
between Bale and the St. Gotthard have 
been compressed from 202 miles to 130 


miles, the Ardennes from 50 to 25 miles, 
and the Appalachians from 153 miles to 
65 ! Prof. Gumbel has recently expressed 
the opinion that the main force to which 
the elevation of the Alps was due acted 
along the main axis of elevation. Exactly 
the opposite inference would seem really to 
follow from the facts. If the centre of force 
were along the axis of elevation, the result 
would, as Suess and Heim have pointed out, 
be to extend, not to compress, the strata; 
and the folds would remain quite unaccounted 
for. The suggestion of compression is on the 
contrary consistent with the main features of 
Swiss geography. The principal axis follows 
a curved line from the Maritime Alps towards 
the north-east by Mont Blanc and Monte 
Rosa and St. Gotthard to the mountains over- 
looking the Engadine. The geological strata 
follow the same direction. North of a line 
running through Chambery, Yverdun, Neu- 
chatel, Solothurn, and Olten to-Waldshut on 
the Rhine are Jurassic strata ; between that 
line and a second nearly parallel and running 
through Annecy, Vevey, Lucerne, Wesen, 


Appenzell, and Bregenz on the Lake of Con- 
stance, is the lowland occupied by later 
Tertiary strata ; between this second line 
and another passing through Albertville, St. 
Maurice, Lenk, Meiringen, and Altdorf lies a 
more or less broken band of older Tertiary 
strata ; south of which are a Cretaceous zone, 
one of Jurassic age, then a band of crystalline 
rocks, while the central core, so to say, of the 
Alps, as for instance at St. Gotthard, consists 
mainly of gneiss or granite. The sedimentary 
deposits reappear south of the Alps, and in 
the opinion of some high authorities, as, for 
instance, of Bonney and Heim, passed con- 
tinuously over the intervening regions. The 
last great upheaval commenced after the 
Miocene period, and continued through the 
Pliocene. Miocene strata attain in the Eighi 
a height of 6000 feet. 

For neither the hills nor the mountains are 
everlasting, or of the same age. 

The Welsh mountains are older than the 
Yosges, the Yosges than the Pyrenees, the Pyr- 
enees than the Alps, and the Alps than the 
Andes, which indeed are still rising ; so that 


if our English mountains are less imposing 
so far as mere height is concerned, they are 
most venerable from their great antiquity. 

But though the existing Alps are in one 
sense, and speaking geologically, very recent, 
there is strong reason for believing that there 
was a chain of lofty mountains there long 
previously. " The first indication," says Judd, 
" of the existence of a line of weakness in this 
portion of the earth's crust is found towards 
the close of the Permian period, when a series 
of volcanic outbursts on the very grandest 
scale took place " along a line nearly follow- 
ing that of the present Alps, and led to the 
formation of a range of mountains, which, in 
his opinion, must have been at least 8000 to 
9000 feet high. Ramsay and Bonney have 
also given strong reasons for believing 
that the present line of the Alps was, at a 
still earlier period, occupied by a range 
of mountains no less lofty than those of 
to-day. Thus then, though the present Alps 
are comparatively speaking so recent, there 
are good grounds for the belief that they were 
preceded by one or more earlier ranges, once 


as lofty as they are now, but which were more 
or less completely levelled by the action of air 
and water, just as is happening now to the 
present mountain ranges. 

Movements of elevation and subsidence are 
still going on in various parts of the world. 
Scandinavia is rising in the north, and sink- 
ing at the south. South America is rising on 
the west and sinking in the east, rotating in 
fact on its axis, like some stupendous pendu- 

The crushing and folding of the strata to 
which mountain chains are due, and of which 
the Alps afford such marvellous illustrations, 
necessarily give rise to Earthquakes, and the 
slight shocks so frequent in parts of Switzer- 
land 1 appear to indicate that the forces which 
have raised the Alps are not yet entirely spent, 
and that slow subterranean movements are still 
in progress along the flanks of the mountains. 

But if the mountain chains are due to com- 
pression, the present valleys are mainly the 
result of denudation. As soon as a mountain 
range is once raised, all nature seems to con- 

1 In the last 150 years more than 1000 are recorded. 


spire against it. Sun and Frost, Heat and 
Cold, Air and Water, Ice and Snow, every 
plant, from the Lichen to the Oak, and every 
animal, from the Worm to Man himself, com- 
bine to attack it. Water, however, is the 
most powerful agent of all. The autumn rains 
saturate every pore and cranny ; the water as 
it freezes cracks and splits the hardest rocks ; 
while the spring sun melts the snow and swells 
the rivers, which in their turn carry off the 
debris to the plains. 

Perhaps, however, it would after all be more 
correct to say that Nature, like some great 
artist, carves the shapeless block into form, and 
endows the rude mass with life and beauty. 

" What more," said Hutton long ago, ." is 
required to explain the configuration of our 
mountains and valleys ? Nothing but time. 
It is not any part of the process that will be 
disputed ; but, after allowing all the parts, the 
whole will be denied ; and for what ? Only 
because we are not disposed to allow that 
quantity of time which the absolution of so 
much wasted mountain might require." 

The tops of the Swiss mountains stand, 


and since their elevation have probably 
always stood, above the range of ice, and 
hence their bold peaks. In Scotland, on 
the contrary, and still more in Norway, the 
sheet of ice which once, as is the case with 
Greenland now, spread over the whole coun- 
try, has shorn off the summits and reduced 
them almost to gigantic bosses ; while in 
Wales the same causes, together with the 
resistless action of time for, as already 
mentioned, the Welsh hills are far older 
than the mountains of Switzerland has 
ground down the once lofty summits and 
reduced them to mere stumps, such as, if 
the present forces are left to work out their 
results, the Swiss mountains will be thou- 
sands, or rather tens of thousands, of years 

The " snow line " in Switzerland is gener- 
ally given as being between 8500 and 9000 
feet. Above this level the snow or neve 
gradually accumulates until it forms " glac- 
iers," solid rivers of ice which descend more 
or less far down the valleys. No one who 
has not seen a glacier can possibly realise 


what they are like. Fig. 20 represents the 
glacier of the Bliimlis Alp, and the Plate 
the Mer de Glace. 

They are often very beautiful. " Mount 
Beerenberg," says Lord Dufferin, " in size, 
colour, and effect far surpassed anything I 
had anticipated. The glaciers were quite 
an unexpected element of beauty. Imagine 
a mighty river, of as great a volume as the 
Thames, started down the side of a moun- 
tain, bursting over every impediment, whirled 
into a thousand eddies, tumbling and rag- 
ing on from ledge to ledge in quivering 
cataracts of foam, then suddenly struck 
rigid by a power so instantaneous in its 
action that even the froth and fleeting 
wreaths of spray have stiffened to the immu- 
tability of sculpture. Unless you had seen 
it, it would be almost impossible to conceive 
the strangeness of the contrast between the 
actual tranquillity of these silent crystal 
rivers and the violent descending energy 
impressed upon their exterior. You must 
remember too all this is upon a scale of such 
prodigious magnitude, that when we sue- 


ceeded subsequently in approaching the spot 
where with a leap like that of Niagara 
one of these glaciers plunges down into the 
sea the eye, no longer able to take in its 
fluvial character, was content to rest in 
simple astonishment at what then appeared 
a lucent precipice of grey-green ice, rising 
to the height of several hundred feet above 
the masts of the vessel." 1 

The cliffs above glaciers shower down 
fragments of rock which gradually accu- 
mulate at the sides and at the end of 
the glaciers, forming mounds known as 
" moraines." Many ancient moraines occur 
far beyond the present region of glaciers. 

In considering the condition of alpine 
valleys we must remember that the glaciers 
formerly descended much further than they 
do at present. The glaciers of the Rhone 
for instance occupied the whole of the Valais, 
filled the Lake of Geneva or rather the 
site now occupied by that lake and rose 
2000 feet up the slopes of the Jura ; the 
Upper Ticino, and contributory valleys, were 

1 Letters from High Latitudes. 


occupied by another which filled the basin 
of the Lago Maggiore ; a third occupied the 
valley of the Dora Baltea, and has left a 
moraine at Ivrea some twenty miles long, and 
which rises no less than 1500 feet above the 
present level of the river. The Scotch and 
Scandinavian valleys were similarly filled 
by rivers of ice/ which indeed at one time 
covered the whole country with an immense 
sheet, as Greenland is at present. Enor- 
mous blocks of stone, the Pierre a Niton 
at Geneva and the Pierre a Bot above 
Neuchatel, for instance, were carried by 
these glaciers for miles and miles ; and many 
of the stones in the Norfolk cliffs were 
brought by ice from Norway (perhaps, how- 
ever, by Icebergs), across what is now the 
German Ocean. Again wherever the rocks 
are hard enough to have withstood the 
weather, we find them polished and ground, 
just as, and even more so than, those at the 
ends and sides of existing glaciers. 

The most magnificent glacier tracks in the 
Alps are, in Ruskin's opinion, those on the 
rocks of the great angle opposite Martigny ; 


the most interesting those above the channel 
of the Trient between Valorsine and the valley 
of the Rhone. 

In Great Britain I know no better illus- 
tration of ice action than is to be seen on the 
road leading down from Glen Quoich to Loch 
Hourn, one of the most striking examples of 
desolate and savage scenery in Scotland. Its 
name in Celtic is said to mean the Lake of 
Hell. All along the roadside are smoothed 
and polished hummocks of rock, most of them 
deeply furrowed with approximately parallel 
striae, presenting a gentle slope on the upper 
end, and a steep side below, clearly showing 
the direction of the great ice flow. 

Many of the upper Swiss valleys contain 
lakes, as, for instance, that of the Upper 
Rhone, the Lake of Geneva, of the Reuss, the 
Lake of Lucerne, of the Rhine, that of Con- 
stance. These lakes are generally very deep. 

The colour of the upper rivers, which are 
white with the diluvium from the glaciers, is 
itself evidence of the erosive powers which 
they exercise. This finely-divided matter is, 
however, precipitated in the lakes, which, as 


well as the rivers issuing from them, are a 
beautiful rich blue. 

"Is it not probable that this action of 
finely-divided niatter may have some influ- 
ence on the colour of some of the Swiss lakes 
- as that of Geneva for example ? This lake 
is simply an expansion of the river Rhone, 
which rushes from the end of the Rhone 
glacier, as the Arveiron does from the end of 
the Mer de Glace. Numerous other streams 
join the Rhone right and left during its 
downward course; and these feeders, being 
almost wholly derived from glaciers, join the 
Rhone charged with the finer matter which 
these in their motion have ground from the 
rocks over which they have passed. But the 
glaciers must grind the mass beneath them 
to particles of all sizes, and I cannot help 
thinking that the finest of them must remain 
suspended in the lake throughout its entire 
length. Faraday has shown that a precipi- 
tate of gold may require months to sink to 
the bottom of a bottle not more than five 
inches high, and in all probability it would 
require ages of calm subsidence to bring all 


the particles which the Lake of Geneva con- 
tains to its bottom. It seems certainly worthy 
of examination whether such particles sus- 
pended in the water contribute to the pro- 
duction of that magnificent blue which has 
excited the admiration of all who have seen 
it under favourable circumstances." 1 

Among the Swiss mountains themselves 
each has its special character. Tyndall thus 
describes a view in the Alps, certainly one of 
the most beautiful that, namely, from the 
summit of the ^Egischhorn. 

"Skies and summits are to-day without a 
cloud, and no mist or turbidity interferes 
with the sharpness of the outlines. Jung- 
frau, Monk, Eiger, Trugberg, cliffy Strahlgrat, 
stately lady-like Aletschhorn, all grandly 
pierce the empyrean. Like a Saul of Moun- 
tains, the Finsteraarhorn overtops all his 
neighbours ; then we have the Oberaarhorn, 
with the riven glacier of Viesch rolling from 
his shoulders. Below is the Marjelin See, 
Avith its crystal precipices and its floating ice- 
bergs, snowy white, sailing on a blue green 

1 Glaciers of the Alps. 


sea. Beyond is the range which divides the 
Valais from Italy. Sweeping round, the 
vision meets an aggregate of peaks which look 
as fledglings to their mother towards the 
mighty Dom. Then come the repellent crags 
of Mont Cervin ; the ideal of moral savagery, 
of wild untameable ferocity, mingling involun- 
tarily with our contemplation of the gloomy 
pile. Next comes an object, scarcely less 
grand, conveying, it may be, even a deeper 
impression of majesty and might than the 
Matterhorn itself the Weisshorn, perhaps 
the most splendid object in the Alps. But 
beauty is associated with its force, and we 
think of it, not as cruel, but as grand and 
strong. Further to the right the great 
Combin lifts up his bare head; other peaks 
crowd around him ; while at the extremity of 
the curve round which our gaze has swept 
rises the sovran crown of Mont Blanc. And 
now, as day sinks, scrolls of pearly clouds 
draw themselves around the mountain crests, 
being wafted from them into the distant air. 
They are without colour of any kind ; still, by 
grace of form, and as the embodiment of 


lustrous light and most tender shade, their 
beauty is not to be described." 1 


Volcanoes belong to a totally different 
series of mountains. 

It is practically impossible to number the 
Volcanoes on our earth. Humboldt enumer- 
ated 223, which Keith Johnston raised to 
nearly 300. Some, no doubt, are always 
active, but in the majority the eruptions are 
occasional, and though some are undoubtedly 
now extinct, it is impossible in all cases to 
distinguish those which are only in repose 
from those whose day of activity is over. 
Then, again, the question would arise, which 
should be regarded as mere subsidiary cones 
and which are separate volcanoes. The 
slopes of Etna present more than 700 small 
cones, and on Hawaii there are several 
thousands. In fact, most of the very lofty 
volcanoes present more or less lateral cones. 

The molten matter, welling up through 

1 Mountaineering in 1861. 




some fissure, gradually builds itself up into 
a cone, often of the most beautiful regularity, 
such as the gigantic peaks of Chimporazo, 
Cotopaxi (Fig. 21), and Fusiyama, and hence 
it is that the crater is so often at, or very 
near, the summit. 

Perhaps no spectacle in Nature is more 
magnificent than a Volcano in activity. It 
has been my good fortune to have stood 

Fig. 21. Cotopaxi. 

more than once at the edge of the crater 
of Vesuvius during an eruption, to have 
watched the lava seething below, while enor- 
mous stones were shot up high into the air. 
Such a spectacle can never be forgotten. 


The most imposing crater in the world is 
probably that of Kilauea, at a height of 
about 4000 feet on the side of Mouna Loa, 
in the Island of Hawaii. It has a diameter 
of 2 miles, and is elliptic in outline, with a 
longer axis of about 3, and a circumference 
of about 7 miles. The interior is a great 
lake of lava, the level of which is constantly 
changing. Generally, it stands about 800 
feet below the edge, and the depth is about 
1400 feet. The heat is intense, and, espe- 
cially at night, when the clouds are coloured 
scarlet by the reflection from the molten 
lava, the effect is said to be magnificent. 
Gradually the lava mounts in the crater 
until it either bursts through the side or 
runs over the edge, after which the crater 
remains empty, sometimes for years. 

A lava stream flows down the slope of 
the mountain like a burning river, at first 
rapidly, but as it cools, scoriae gradually 
form, and at length the molten matter 
covers itself completely (Fig. 22), both above 
and at the sides, with a solid crust, within 
which, as in a tunnel,, it continues to flow 

Fig. 22. Lava Stream. 


slowly as long as it is supplied from the 
source, here and there breaking through the 
crust which, as continually., re-forms in front. 
Thus the terrible, inexorable river of fire 
slowly descends, destroying everything in 
its course. 

The stream of lava which burst from 
Mouna Loa in 1885 had a length of 70 miles; 
that of Skaptar-Jokul in Iceland in 1783 had 
a length of 50 miles, and a maximum depth 
of nearly 500 feet. It has been calculated that 
the mass of lava equalled that of Mont Blanc. 

The stones, ashes, and mud ejected during 
eruptions are even more destructive than the 
rivers of lava. In 1851 Tomboro, a volcano 
on the Island of Sumbava, cost more lives 
than fell in the battle of Waterloo. The 
earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 destroyed 
60,000 persons. During the earthquake of 
Riobamba and the mud eruption of Tungu- 
ragua, and again in that of Krakatoa, it is 
estimated that the number who perished was 
between 30,000 and 40,000. At the earth- 
quake of Antioch in 526 no less than 200,000 
persons are said to have lost their lives. 


Perhaps the most destructive eruption of 
modern times has been that on Cosequina. 
For 25 miles it covered the ground with 
muddy water 16 feet in depth. The dust 
and ashes formed a dense cloud, extending 
over many miles, some of it being carried 20 
degrees to the west. The total mass ejected 
has been estimated at 60 milliards of square 

Stromboli, in the Mediterranean (Fig. 23), 
though only 2500 feet in height, is very im- 
posing from its superb regularity, and its 
roots plunge below the surface to a depth of 
4000 feet. 

It is, moreover, very interesting from the 
regularity of its action, which has a period 
of 5 minutes or a little less. On looking 
down into the crater one sees at a depth of 
say 300 feet a seething mass of red-hot lava ; 
this gradually rises, and then explodes, throw- 
ing up a cloud of vapour and stones, after 
which it sinks again. So regular is it that 
the Volcano has been compared to a "flashing" 
lighthouse, and this wonderful process has 
been going on for ages. 


Though long extinct, volcanoes once existed 
in the British Isles ; Arthur's Seat, near 
Edinburgh, for instance, appears to be the 
funnel of a small volcano, belonging to the 
Carboniferous period. 

The summit of a volcanic mountain is 
sometimes entirely blown away. Between 
my first two visits to Vesuvius 200 feet of the 
mountain had thus disappeared. Vesuvius 
itself stands in a more ancient crater, part 
of which still remains, and is now known as 
Somma, the greater portion having disap- 
peared in the great eruption of 79, when the 
mountain, waking from its long sleep, de- 
stroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii. 

As regards the origin of volcanoes there 
have been two main theories. Impressed by 
the magnitude and grandeur of the phenom- 
ena, enhanced as they are by their destruc- 
tive character, many have been disposed to 
regard the craters of volcanoes as gigantic 
chimneys, passing right through the solid 
crust of the globe, and communicating with 
a central fire. Eecent researches, however, 
have indicated that, grand and imposing as 


they are, volcanoes must yet be regarded as 
due mainly to local and superficial causes. 

A glance at the map shows that volcanoes 
are almost always situated on, or near, the sea 
coast. From the interior of continents they 
are entirely wanting. The number of active 
volcanoes in the Andes, contrasted with their 
absence in the Alps and Ourals, the Hima- 
layas, and Central Asian chains, is very strik- 
ing. Indeed, the Pacific Ocean is encircled, 
as Ritter has pointed out, by a ring of fire. 
Beginning with New Zealand, we have the 
Volcanoes of Tongariro, Whakaii, etc. ; thence 
the circle passes through the Fiji Islands, Sol- 
omon Islands, New Guinea, Timor, Flores, 
Sumbava, Lombock, Java, Sumatra, the Philip- 
pines, Japan, the Aleutian Islands, along the 
Rocky Mountains, Mexico, Peru, and Chili, to 
Tierra del Fuego, and, in the far south, to the 
two great Volcanoes of Erebus and Terror on 
Victoria Land. 

We know that the contraction of the 
Earth's surface with the strains and fractures, 
the compression and folds, which must inevi- 
tably result, is still in operation, and must 


give rise to areas of high temperature, and 
consequently to volcanoes. We must also 
remember that the real mountain chains of 
our earth are the continents, compared to 
which even the Alps and Andes are mere 
wrinkles. It is along the lines of the great 
mountain chains, that is to say, along the 
main coast lines, rather than in the centres of 
the continents, which may be regarded as com- 
paratively quiescent, that we should naturally 
expect to find the districts of greatest heat, 
and this is perhaps why volcanoes are gener- 
ally distributed along the coast lines. 

Another reason for regarding Volcanoes as 
local phenomena is that many even of those 
comparatively near one another act quite 
independently. This is so with Kilauea and 
Mouna Loa, both on the small island of 

Again, if volcanoes were in connection 
with a great central sea of fire, the erup- 
tions must follow the same laws as regulate 
the tides. This, however, is not the case. 
There are indeed indications of the exist- 
ence of slight tides in the molten lake which 


underlies Vesuvius, and during the eruption 
of 1865 there was increased activity twice 
a day, as we should expect to find in any 
great fluid reservoir, but very different indeed 
from what must have been the case if the 
mountain was in connection with a central 
ocean of molten matter. 

Indeed, unless the " crust " of our earth 
was of great thickness we should be subject 
to perpetual earthquakes. No doubt these 
are far more frequent than is generally 
supposed ; indeed, with our improved in- 
struments it can be shown that instead of 
occasional vibrations, with long intermediate 
periods of rest, we have in reality short 
intervals of rest with long periods of vibra- 
tion, or rather perhaps that the crust of the 
earth is in constant tremor, with more 
violent oscillation from time to time. 

It appears, moreover, that earthquakes 
are not generally deep-seated. The point at 
which the shock is vertical can be ascer- 
tained, and it is also possible in some cases 
to determine the angle at which it emerges 
elsewhere. When this has been done it has 


always been found that the seat of disturb- 
ance must have been within 30 geographical 
miles of the surface. 

Yet, though we cannot connect volcanic 
action with the central heat of the earth, 
but must regard it as a minor and local 
manifestation of force, volcanoes still remain 
among the grandest, most awful, and at the 
same time most magnificent spectacles which 
the earth can afford. 



Of all inorganic substances, acting in their own proper 
nature, and without assistance or combination, water is the 
most wonderful. If we think of it as the source of all the 
changefulness and beauty which we have seen in the clouds ; 
then as the instrument by which the earth we have contem- 
plated was modelled into symmetry, and its crags chiselled 
into grace ; then as, in the form of snow, it robes the moun- 
tains it has made, with that transcendent light which we 
could not have conceived if we had not seen ; then as it 
exists in the foam of the torrent, in the iris which spans it, 
in the morning mist which rises from it, in the deep crystal- 
line pools which mirror its hanging shore, in the broad lake 
and glancing river, finally, in that which is to all human 
minds the best emblem of unwearied, unconquerable power, 
the wild, various, fantastic, tameless unity of the sea; what 
shall we compare to this mighty, this universal element, for 
glory and for beauty ? or how shall we follow its eternal 
cheerfulness of feeling? It is like trying to paint a soul. 


/?> OF THE 

*7 "X . *?sj Y3 ~*'' T ^ "tT * 

** /> ., 



IN the legends of ancient times running 
water was proof against all sorcery and 
witchcraft : 

No spell could stay the living tide 
Or charm the rushing stream. 1 

There was much truth as well as beauty in 
this idea. 

Flowing waters, moreover, have not only 
power to wash out material stains, but they 
also clear away the cobwebs of the brain 
the results of over incessant work and re- 
store us to health and strength. 

Snowfields and glaciers, mountain torrents, 
sparkling brooks, and stately rivers, meres 
and lakes, and last, not least, the great ocean 
itself, all alike possess this magic power. 

1 Leyden. 



"When I would beget content/' says Izaak 
Walton, "and increase confidence in the 
power and wisdom and providence of Al- 
mighty God, I will walk the meadows by 
some gliding stream, and there contemplate 
the lilies that take no care, and those very 
many other little living creatures that are 
not only created, but fed (man knows not 
how) by the goodness of the God of Nature, 
and therefore trust in Him;" and in his 
quaint old language he craves a special bless- 
ing on all those " that are true lovers of 
virtue, and dare trust in His Providence, and 
be quiet, and go a angling." 

At the water's edge flowers are especially 
varied and luxuriant, so that the batiks of a 
river are a long natural garden of tall and 
graceful grasses and sedges, the Meadow 
Sweet, the Flowering Rush, the sweet Flag, 
the Bull Rush, Purple Loosestrife, Hemp 
Agrimony, Dewberry, Forget-me-not, and a 
hundred more, backed by Willows, Alders, 
Poplars, and other trees. 

The Animal world, if less conspicuous to 
the eye, is quite as fascinating to the imagina- 

vii WATER 253 

tion. Here and there a speckled Trout may 
be detected (rather by the shadow than the 
substance) suspended in the clear water, or 
darting across a shallow ; if we are quiet we 
may see Water Hens or Wild Ducks swim- 
ming among the lilies, a Kingfisher. sitting on 
a branch or flashing away like a gleam of 
light ; a solemn Heron stands maybe at the 
water's edge, or slowly rises flapping his 
great wings ; Water Rats, neat and clean 
little creatures, very different from their 
coarse brown namesakes of the land, are 
abundant everywhere ; nor need we even yet 
quite despair of seeing the Otter himself. 

Insects of course are gay, lively, and in- 
numerable ; but after all the richest fauna is 
that visible only with a microscope. 

" To gaze," says Dr. Hudson, " into that 
wonderful world which lies in a drop of 
water, crossed by some stems of green weed, 
to see transparent living mechanism at work, 
and to gain some idea of its modes of action, 
to watch a tiny speck that can sail through 
the prick of a needle's point ; to see its 
crystal armour flashing with ever varying 


tint, its head glorious with the halo of its 
quivering cilia ; to see it gliding through the 
emerald stems, hunting for its food, snatching 
at its prey, fleeing from its enemy, chasing its 
mate (the fiercest of our passions blazing in 
an invisible speck) ; to see it whirling in a 
mad dance, to the sound of its own music, 
the music of its happiness, the exquisite happi- 
ness of living can any one, who has once 
enjoyed this sight, ever turn from it to mere 
books and drawings, without the sense that 
lie has left all Fairyland behind him?" l 

The study of Natural History has indeed 
the special advantage of carrying us into the 
country and the open air. 

Lakes are even more restful than rivers or 
the sea. Rivers are always flowing, though 
it may be but slowly ; the sea may rest 
awhile, now and then, but is generally full of 
action and energy ; while lakes seem to sleep 
and dream. Lakes in a beautiful country are 
like silver ornaments on a lovely dress, like 
liquid gems in a beautiful setting, or bright 
eyes in a lovely face. Indeed as we gaze 

1 Dr. Hudson, Address to the Microscopical Society, 1889. 

vii WATER 255 

down on a lake from some hill or cliff it 
almost looks solid, like some great blue 

It is not merely for purposes of commerce 
or convenience that men love to live near 

Let me live harmlessly, and near the brink 
Of Trent or Avon have my dwelling-place ; 

Where I may see my quill, or cork, down sink, 
With eager bite of pike, or bleak, or dace , 

And on the world and my Creator think : 

While some men strive ill-gotten goods t' embrace : 

And others spend their time in base excess 

Of wine ; or worse, in war, or wantonness. 

Let them that will, these pastimes still pursue, 
And on such pleasing fancies feed their fill : 

So I the fields and meadows green may view 
And daily by fresh rivers walk at will, 

Among the daisies and the violets blue, 
Red hyacinth and yellow daffodil. 1 

It is interesting and delightful to trace a 
river from its source to the sea. 

" Beginning at the hill-tops/' says Geikie, 
"we first meet with the spring or ' well-eye/ 
from which the river takes its rise. A patch 
of bright green, mottling the brown heathy 

1 F. Davors. 


slope, shows where the water comes to the 
surface, a treacherous covering of verdure 
often concealing a deep pool beneath. From 
this source the rivulet trickles along the grass 
and heath, which it soon cuts through, reach- 
ing the black, peaty layer below, and running 
in it for a short way as in a gutter. Exca- 
vating its channel in the peat, it comes down 
to the soil, often a stony earth bleached white 
by the peat. Deepening and widening the 
channel as it gathers force with the increas- 
ing slope, the water digs into the coating of 
drift or loose decomposed rock that covers 
the hillside. In favourable localities a nar- 
row precipitous gully, twenty or thirty feet 
deep, may thus be scooped out in the course 
of a few years." 

If, however, we trace one of the Swiss 
rivers to its source we shall generally find 
that it begins in a snow field or neve nestled 
in a shoulder of some great mountain. 

Below the neve lies a glacier, on, in, and 
under which the water runs in a thousand 
little streams, eventually emerging at the 
end, in some cases forming a beautiful blue 



cavern, though in others the end of the 
glacier is encumbered and concealed by earth 
and stones. 

The uppermost Alpine valleys are perhaps 
generally, though by no means always, a 


little desolate and severe, as, for instance, 
that of St. Grotthard (Fig. 24). The sides are 
clothed with rough pasture, which is flowery 
indeed, though of course the flowers are not 
visible at a distance, interspersed with live 
rock and fallen masses, while along the 
bottom rushes a white torrent. The snowy 
peaks are generally more or less hidden by 
the shoulders of the hills. 

The valleys further down widen and be- 
come more varied and picturesque. The 
snowy peaks and slopes are more often 
visible, the " alps " or pastures to which the 
cows are taken in summer, are greener and 
dotted with the huts or chalets of the cow- 
herds, while the tinkling of the cowbells 
comes tp one from time to time, softened by 
distance, and suggestive of mountain rambles. 
Below the alps there is generally a steeper 
part clothed with Firs or with Larches and 
Pines, some of which seem as if they were 
scaling the mountains in regiments, preceded 
by a certain number of skirmishers. Below 
the fir woods again are Beeches, Chestnuts, 
and other deciduous trees, while the central 

vii WATER 259 

cultivated portion of the valley is partly 
arable, partly pasture, the latter differing 
from our meadows in containing a greater 
variety of flowers Campanulas, Wild Ge- 
raniums, Chervil, Ragged Robin, Narcissus, 
etc. Here and there is a brown village, 
while more or less in the centre hurries 
along, with a delightful rushing sound, the 
mountain torrent, to which the depth, if not 
the very existence of the valley, is mainly 
due. The meadows are often carefully 
irrigated, and the water power is also used 
for mills, the streams seeming to rush on, as 
Ruskin says, " eager for their work at the 
mill, or their ministry to the meadows." 

Apart from the action of running water, 
snow and frost are continually disintegrating 
the rocks, and at the base of almost any 
steep cliff may be seen a slope of debris 
(as in Figs. 25, 26). This stands at a regular 
angle the angle of repose and unless it 
is continually removed by a stream at the 
base, gradually creeps up higher and higher, 
until at last the cliff entirely disappears. 

Sometimes the two sides of the valley 


approach so near that there is not even room 
for the river and the road : in that case 
Nature claims the supremacy, and the road 
has to be carried in a cutting, or perhaps in 
a tunnel through the rock. In other cases 
Nature is not at one with herself. In many 

Fig. 25. Section of a river valley. The dotted line shows a slope or 
talus of debris. 

places the debris from the rocks above would 
reach right across the valley and dam up the 
stream. Then arises a struggle between 
rock and river, but the river is always vic- 
torious in the end ; even if dammed back for 
a while, it concentrates its forces, rises up 
the rampart of rock, rushes over trium- 
phantly, resumes its original course, and 
gradually carries the enemy away. 



Another prominent feature in many valleys 
is afforded by the old river, or lake, terraces, 

which were formed at a time when the river 
ran at a level far above its present bed. 


Thus many a mountain valley gives some 
such section as the following. 

Fig. 27. A, present river valley ; B, old river terrace. 

First; a face of rock, very steep, and in 
some places almost perpendicular; secondly, 
a regular talus of fallen rocks, stones, etc., 
as shown in the view of the Rhone Valley 
(Fig. 26), which takes what is known as the 
slope of repose, at an angle which depends 
on the character of the material. As a rule 
for loose rock fragments it may be taken 
roughly to be an angle of about 45. Then 
an irregular slope followed in many places 
by one or more terraces, and lastly the 
present bed of the river. 


The width or narrowness of the valley in 
relation to its depth depends greatly on the 
condition of the rocks, the harder and tougher 
they are the narrower as a rule being the 

From time to time a side stream enters the 
main valley. This is itself composed of many 
smaller rivulets. If the lateral valleys are 
steep, the streams bring with them, especially 
after rains, large quantities of earth and stones. 
When, however, they reach the main valley, 
the rapidity of the current being less, their 
power of transport also diminishes, and they 
spread out the material which they carry down 
in a depressed cone (Figs. 28, 29, 31, 32). 

A side stream with its terminal cone, when 
seen from the opposite side of the valley, pre- 
sents the appearance shown in Figs. 28, 31, 
or, if we are looking down the valley, as in 
Figs. 29, 32, the river being often driven to 
one side of the main valley, as, for instance, 
is the case in the Valais, near Sion, where the 
Rhone (Fig. 30) is driven out of its course by, 
and forms a curve round, the cone brought 
down by the torrent of the Borgne. 




Sometimes two lateral valleys (see Plate) 
come down nearly opposite one another, so 
that the cones meet, as, for instance, some 
little way below Vernayaz, and, indeed, in 
several other places in the Valais (Fig. 31). 
Or more permanent lakes may be due to a 

Fig. 30. 

ridge of rock running across the valley, 
as, for instance, just below St. Maurice in 
the Valais. 

Almost all river valleys contain, or have 
contained, in their course one or more lakes, 
and where a river falls into a lake a cone like 





those just described is formed, and projects 
into the lake. Thus on the Lake of Geneva, 

between Yevey and Villeneuve (see Fig. 33), 
there are several such promontories, each 




marking the place where a stream falls into 
the lake. 

The Rhone itself has not only filled up 
what was once the upper end of the lake, 



but has built out a strip of land into the 

That the lake formerly extended some 
distance up the Valais no one can doubt 
who looks at the flat ground about Ville- 


neuve. The Plate opposite, from a photo- 
graph taken above Vevey, shows this clearly. 
It is quite evident that the lake must for- 
merly have extended further up the valley, 
and that it has been filled up by material 
brought down by the Rhone, a process which 
is still continuing. 

At the other end of the lake the river 
rushes out 15 feet deep of "not flowing, but 
flying water ; not water neither melted 
glacier matter, one should call it; the force 
of the ice is in it. and the wreathing of the 
clouds, the gladness of the sky, and the coun- 
tenance of time." l 

In flat countries the habits of rivers are 
very different. For instance, in parts of Nor- 
folk there are many small lakes or "broads" 
in a network of rivers the Bure, the Yare, 
the Ant, the Waveney, etc. which do not 
rush on with the haste of some rivers, or the 
stately flow of others which are steadily set 
to reach the sea, but rather seem like rivers 
wandering in the meadows on a holiday. 
They have often no natural banks, but are 

1 Ruskin. 

* ... v i . 

L y < 




bounded by dense growths of tall grasses, 
Bulrushes, Reeds, and Sedges, interspersed 
with the spires of the purple Loosestrife, 
Willow Herb, Hemp Agrimony, and other 

Fig. 34. View in the district of the Broads, Norfolk. 

flowers, while the fields are very low and pro- 
tected by dykes, so that the red cattle appear 
to be browsing below the level of the water ; 
and as the rivers take most unexpected 
turns, the sailing boats often seem (Fig. 34) 
as if they were in the middle of the fields. 

At present these rivers are restrained in 
their courses by banks ; when left free they 


are continually changing their beds. Their 
courses at first sight seem to follow no rule, 
but, as it is termed, from a celebrated river 
of Asia Minor, to " meander " along without 
aim or object, though in fact they follow 
very definite laws. 

Finally, when the river at length reaches 
the sea, it in many cases spreads out in the 
form of a fan, forming a very flat cone or 
" delta," as it is called, from the Greek capi- 
tal A, a name first applied to that of the 
Nile, and afterwards extended to other rivers. 
This is due to the same cause, and resembles, 
except in size, the comparatively minute 
cones of mountain streams. 

Fig. 35 represents the delta of the Po, and 
it will be observed that Adria, once a great 
port, and from which the Adriatic was named, 
is now more than 20 miles from the sea. 
Perhaps the most remarkable case is that of 
the Mississippi (Fig. 36), the mouths of which 
project into the sea like a hand, or like the 
petals of a flower.. For miles the mud is too 
soft to support trees, but is covered by sedges 
(Miegea) ; the banks of mud gradually be- 



come too soft and mobile even for them. 
The pilots who navigate ships up the river 

live in frail houses resting on planks, and 
kept in place by anchors. Still further, and 

$9? T T TT 13! "R : V *n l er 




the banks of the Mississippi, if banks they 
can be called, are mere strips of reddish mud, 

Fig. 36. 

intersected from time to time by transverse 
streams of water, which gradually separate 

vii WATER 275 

them into patches. These become more and 
more liquid, until the land, river, and sea 
merge imperceptibly into one another. The 
river is so muddy that it might almost be 
called land, and the mud so saturated by 
water that it might well be called sea, so that 
one can hardly say whether a given spot is 
on the continent, in the river, or on the open 





IN the last chapter I have alluded to the 
wanderings of rivers within the limits of 
their own valleys ; we have now to consider 
the causes which have determined the direc- 
tions of the valleys themselves. 

If a tract of country were raised up in 
the form of a boss or dome, the rain which 
fell on it would partly sink in, partly run 
away to the lower ground. The least in- 
equality in the surface would determine the 
first directions of the streams, which would 
carry down any loose material, and thus 
form little channels, which would be gradu- 
ally deepened and enlarged. It is as difficult 
for a river as for a man to get out of a 



In such a case the rivers would tend to 
radiate with more or less regularity from the 
centre or axis of the dome, as, for instance, 
in our English lake district (Fig. 37). Der- 
went Water, Thirlmere, Coniston Water, and 
Windermere, run approximately N. and S. ; 
Crummock Water, Loweswater, and Butter- 
mere N.W. by S.E.; Waste Water, Ullswater, 
and Hawes Water N.E. by S.W. ; while 
Ennerdale Water lies nearly E. by W. Can 
we account in any way, and if so how, for 
these varied directions? 

The mountains of Cumberland and West- 
moreland form a more or less oval boss, the 
axis of which, though not straight, runs 
practically from E.N.E. to W.S.W., say from 
Scaw Fell to Shap Fell ; and a sketch map 
shows us almost at a glance that Derwent 
Water, Thirlmere, Ullswater, Coniston Water, 
and Windermere run at right angles to this 
axis ; Ennerdale Water is just where the boss 
ends and the mountains disappear; while 
Crummock Water and Waste Water lie at 
the intermediate angles. 

So much then for the direction. We have 


Fig. 37. Map of the Lake District. 


still to consider the situation and origin, and 
it appears that Ullswater, Coniston Water, 
the River Dudden, Waste Water, and Crum- 
mock Water lie along the lines of old faults, 
which no doubt in the first instance deter- 
mined the flow of the water. 

Take another case. In the Jura the 
valleys are obviously (see Fig. 18) in many 
cases due to the folding of the strata. It 
seldom happens, however, that the case is 
so simple. If the elevation is considerable 
the strata are often fractured, and fissures 
are produced. Again if the part elevated 
contains layers of more than one character, 
this at once establishes differences. Take, 
for instance, the Weald of Kent (Figs. 38, 
39). Here we have (omitting minor layers) 
four principal strata concerned, namely, the 
Chalk, Greensand, Weald Clay, and Hastings 

The axis of elevation runs (Fig. 39) from 
Winchester by Petersfield, Horsham, and 
Winchelsea to Boulogne, and as shown in 
the following section, taken from Professor 
Ramsay, we have on each side of the axis 


two ridges or " escarpments," one that of 
the Chalk, the other that of the .Greensand, 
while between the Chalk and the Green- 
sand is a valley, and between the Green- 
sand and the ridge of Hastings Sand an 
undulating plain, in each case with a gen- 
tle slope from about where the London and 

Fig. 38. a, a, Upper Cretaceous strata, chiefly Chalk, forming the North 
and South Downs; 6, b, Escarpment of Lower Greensand, with a valley be- 
tween it and the Chalk; c, c, "Weald Clay, forming plains; d, Hills formed 
of Hastings Sand and Clay. The Chalk, etc., once spread across the country, 
as shown in the dotted lines. 

Brighton railway crosses the Weald towards 
the east. Under these circumstances we 
might have expected that the streams drain- 
ing the Weald would have run in the direc- 
tion of the axis of elevation, and at the 
bases of the escarpments, as in fact the 
Rother does for part of its course, into the 
sea between the North and South Downs, 
instead of which as a rule they run north 
and south, cutting in some cases directly 
through the escarpments; on the north, for 

Fig. 39. - Map of the Weald of Kent. 


instance, the Wye, the Mole, the Darenth, 
the Medway, and the Stour; and on the 
south the Arun, the Addur, the Ouse, and 
the Cuckmere. 

They do not run in faults or cracks, and 
it is clear that they could not have excavated 
their present valleys under circumstances 
such as now exist. They carry us back in- 
deed to a time when the Greensand and 
Chalk were continued across the Weald in a 
great dome, as shown by the dotted lines in 
Fig. 38. They then ran down the slope of 
the dome, and as the Chalk and Greensand 
gradually weathered back, a process still in 
operation, the rivers deepened and deepened 
their valleys, and thus were enabled to keep 
their original course. 

Other evidence in support of this view 
is afforded by the presence of gravel beds 
in some places at the very top of the Chalk 
escarpment beds which were doubtless 
deposited when, what is now the summit 
of a hill, was part of a continuous slope. 

The course of the Thames offers us a some- 
what similar instance. It rises on the Oolites 


near Cirencester, and cuts through the escarp- 
ment of the Chalk between Wallingford and 
Reading. The cutting through the Chalk has 
evidently been effected by the river itself. 
But this could not have happened under 
existing conditions. We must remember, 
however, that the Chalk escarpment is gradu- 
ally moving eastwards. The Chalk escarp- 
ments indeed are everywhere, though of 
course only slowly, crumbling away. Be- 
tween Farnham and Guildford the Chalk is 
reduced to a narrow ridge known as the 
Hog's Back. In the same way no doubt the 
area of the Chalk formerly extended much 
further west than it does at present, and, in- 
deed, there can be little doubt, somewhat 
further west than the source of the Thames, 
almost to the valley of the Severn. At that 
time the Thames took its origin in a Chalk 
spring. Gradually, however, the Chalk was 
worn away by the action of weather, and 
especially of rain. The river maintained its 
course while gradually excavating, and sink- 
ing deeper and deeper into, the Chalk. At 
present the river meets the Chalk escarpment 


near Wallingford, but the escarpment itself 
is still gradually retreating eastward. 

So, again, the Elbe cuts right across the 
Erz-Gebirge, the Rhine through the moun- 
tains between Bingen and Coblenz, the Poto- 
mac, the Susquehannah, and the Delaware 
through the Alleghames. The case of the 
Dranse will be alluded to further on (p. 292). 
In these cases the rivers preceded the moun- 
tains. Indeed as soon as the land rose above 
the waters, rivers would begin their work, 
and having done so, unless the rate of eleva- 
tion of the mountain exceeded the power of 
erosion of the river, the two would proceed 
simultaneously, so that the river would not 
alter its course, but would cut deeper and 
deeper as the mountain range gradually 

Rivers then are in many cases older than 
mountains. Moreover, the mountains are 
passive, the rivers active. Since it seems to 
be well established that in Switzerland a 
mass, more than equal to what remains, has 
been removed ; and that many of the present 
mountains are not sites which were originally 


raised highest, but those which have suffered 
least, it follows that if in some cases the 
course of the river is due to the direction of 
the mountain ridges, on the other hand the 
direction of some of the present ridges is due 
to that of the rivers. At any rate it is cer- 
tain that of the original surface not a trace 
or a fragment remains in situ. Many of our 
own English mountains were once valleys, 
and many of our present valleys occupy the 
sites of former mountain ridges. 

Heim and Rlitimeyer point out that of the 
two factors which have produced the relief of 
mountain regions, the one, elevation, is tem- 
porary and transitory ; the other, denudation, 
is constant, and gains therefore finally the 
upper hand. 

We must not, however, expect too great 
regularity. The degree of hardness, the 
texture, and the composition of the rocks 
cause great differences. 

On the other hand, if the alteration of 
level was too rapid, the result might be 
greatly to alter the river courses. Mr. 
Darwin mentions such a case, which, more- 


over, is perhaps the more interesting as being 
evidently very recent. 

" Mr. Gill," he says, " mentioned to me a 
most interesting, and as far as I am aware, 
quite unparalleled case, of a subterranean dis- 
turbance having changed the drainage of a 
country. Travelling from Casma to Huaraz 
(not very far distant from Lima) he found a 
plain covered with ruins and marks of ancient 
cultivation, but now quite barren. Near it 
was the dry course of a considerable river, 
whence the water for irrigation had formerly 
been conducted. There was nothing in the 
appearance of the water-course to indicate 
that the river had not flowed there a few 
years previously; in some parts beds of sand 
and gravel were spread out ; in others, the 
solid rock had been worn into a broad chan- 
nel, which in one spot was about 40 yards in 
breadth and 8 feet deep. It is self-evident 
that a person following up the course of a 
stream will always ascend at a greater or less 
inclination. Mr. Gill therefore, was much 
astonished when walking up the bed of this 
ancient river, to find himself suddenly going 


downhill. He imagined that the downward 
slope had a fall of about 40 or 50 feet per- 
pendicular. We here have unequivocal evi- 
dence that a ridge had been uplifted right 
across the old bed of a stream. From the 
moment the river course was thus arched, 
the water must necessarily have been thrown 
back, and a new channel formed. From that 
moment also the neighbouring plain must 
have lost its fertilising stream, and become 
a desert." * 

The strata, moreover, often indeed gener- 
ally, as we have seen, for instance, in the case 
of Switzerland bear evidence of most vio- 
lent contortions, and even where the convul- 
sions were less extreme, the valleys thus 
resulting are sometimes complicated by the 
existence of older valleys formed under pre- 
vious conditions. 

In the Alps then the present configuration 
of the surface is mainly the result of denuda- 
tion. If we look at a map of Switzerland 
we can trace but little relation between the 
river courses and the mountain chains. 

1 Darwin's Voyage of a Naturalist. 


The rivers, as a rule (Fig. 40), run either 

S.E. by N.W., or, at right angles to this, N.E. 
and S.W, The Alps themselves follow a 


somewhat curved line from the Maritime Alps, 
commencing with the islands of Hyeres, by 
Briancon, Martigny, the Valais, Urseren Thai, 
Vorder Rhein, Innsbruck, Radstadt, and 
Rottenmann to the Danube, a little below 
Vienna, at first nearly north and south, but 
gradually curving round until it becomes 
S.W. by N.E. 

The central mountains are mainly composed 
of Gneiss, Granite, and crystalline Schists : 
the line of junction between these rocks and 
the secondary and tertiary strata on the north, 
runs, speaking roughly, from Hyeres to Gre- 
noble, and then by Albertville, Sion, Chur, Inns, 
bruck, Radstadt, and Hieflau, towards Vienna. 
It is followed (in some part of their course) 
by the Isere, the Rhone, the Rhine, the Inn, 
and the Enns. One of the great folds shortly 
described in the preceding chapter runs up 
the Isere, along the Chamouni Valley, up the 
Rhone, through the Urseren Thai, down the 
Rhine Valley to Chur, along the Inn nearly to 
Kuf stein, and for some distance along the 
Enns. Thus, then, five great rivers have 
taken advantage of this main fold, each of 


them eventually breaking through into a 
transverse valley. 

The Pusterthal in the Tyrol offers us an 
interesting case of what is obviously a single 
valley, which has, however, been slightly 
raised in the centre, near Toblach, so that 
from this point the water flows in opposite 
directions the Drau eastward, and the Rienz 
westward. In this case the elevation is 
single and slight : in the main valley there 
are several, and they are much loftier, 
still we may, I think, regard that of 
the Isere from Chambery to Albertville, 
of the Rhone from Martigny to its source, 
of the Urseren Thai, of the Vorder Rhine 
from its source to Chur, of the Inn from 
Landeck to below Innsbruck, even perhaps 
of the Enns from Radstadt to Hieflau as 
in one sense a single valley, due to one of 
these longitudinal folds, but interrupted by 
bosses of gneiss and granite, one culminat- 
ing in Mont Blanc, and another in the St. 
Gotthard, which have separated the waters 
of the Isere, the Rhone, the Vorder Rhine, 
the Inn, and the Enns. That the valley of 


Chamouni, the Yalais, the Urseren Thai, 
and that of the Yorder Khine really form 
part of one great fold is further shown by 
the presence of a belt of Jurassic strata 
nipped in, as it were, between the crystalline 

This seems to throw light on the remark- 
able turns taken by the Rhone at Martigny 
and the Vorder Rhine at Chur, where they 
respectively quit the great longitudinal fold, 
and fall into secondary transverse valleys. 
The Rhone for the upper part of its course, as 
far as Martigny, runs in the great longitudi- 
nal fold of the Yalais ; at Martigny it falls 
into and adopts the transverse valley, which 
properly belongs to the Dranse ; for the 
Dranse is probably an older river and ran in 
the present course even before the great fold 
of the Yalais. This would seem to indicate 
that the Oberland range is not so old as the 
Pennine, and that its elevation was so 
gradual that the Dranse was able to wear 
away a passage as the ridge gradually rose. 
After leaving the Lake of Geneva the Rhone 
follows a course curving gradually to the 


south, until it reaches St. Genix, where it falls 
into and adopts a transverse valley which 
properly belongs to the little river Guiers ; it 
subsequently joins the Ain and finally falls 
into the Saone. If these valleys were attrib- 
uted to their older occupiers we should there- 
fore confine the name of the Rhone to the 
portion of its course from the Rhone glacier to 
Martigny. From Martigny it occupies succes- 
sively the valleys of the Dranse, Guiers, Ain, 
and Saone. In fact, the Saone receives the 
Ain, the Ain the Guiers, the Guiers the 
Dranse, and the Dranse the Rhone. This is 
not a mere question of names, but also one of 
antiquity. The Saone, for instance, flowed 
past Lyons to the Mediterranean for ages 
before it was joined by the Rhone. In our 
nomenclature, however, the Rhone has swal- 
lowed up the others. This is the more curious 
because of the three great rivers which unite 
to form the lower Rhone, namely, the Saone, 
the Doubs, and the Rhone itself, the Sacme 
brings for a large part of the year the 
greatest volume of water, and the Doubs 
has the longest course. Other similar cases 




might be mentioned. The Aar, for instance, 
is a somewhat larger river than the Rhine. 

But why should the rivers, after running 


for a certain distance in the direction of the 
main axis, so often break away into lateral 
valleys ? If the elevation of a chain of moun- 
tains be due to the causes suggested in p. 214, 
it is evident, though, so far as I am aware, 
stress has not hitherto been laid upon this, 
that the compression and consequent folding 
of the strata (Fig. 41) would not be in the 
direction A B only, but also at right angles to 
it, in the direction A (7, though the amount of 
folding might be much greater in one direc- 
tion than in the other. Thus in the case of 
Switzerland, while the main folds run south- 
west by north-east, there would be others at 
right angles to the main axis. The complex 
structure of the Swiss mountains may be 
partly due to the coexistence of these two 
directions of pressure at right angles to one 
another. The presence of a fold so originating 
would often divert the river to a course more 
or less nearly at right angles to its original 

Switzerland, moreover, slopes northwards 
from the Alps, so that the lowest part of the 
great Swiss plain is that along the foot of 


the Jura. Hence the main drainage rims 
along the line from Yverdun to Neuchatel, 
down the Zihl to Soleure, and then along the 
Aar to Waldshut : the Upper Aar, the-Emmen, 
the Wiggern, the Suhr, the Wynen, the lower 
Reuss, the Sihl, and the Limmat, besides 
several smaller streams, running approxi- 
mately parallel to one another north-north- 
east, and at angles to the main axis of 
elevation, and all joining the Aar from the 
south, while on the north it does not receive 
a single contributary of any importance. 

On the south side of the Alps again w r e 
have the Dora Baltea, the Sesia, the Ticino, 
the Olonna, the Adda, the Adige, etc., all 
running south-south-east from the axis of 
elevation to the Po. 

Indeed, the general slope of Switzerland, 
being from the ridge of the Alps towards the 
north, it will be observed (Fig. 42) that almost 
all the large affluents of these rivers running 
in longitudinal valleys fall in on the south, as, 
for instance, those of the Isere from Albertville 
to Grenoble, of the Rhone from its source to 
Martigny, of the Yorder Rhine from its source 


to Chur, of the Inn from Landeck to Kufstein, 

of the Enns from its source to near Admont, 


of the Danube from its source to Vienna, and 
as just mentioned, of the Aar from Bern to 
Waldshut. Hence also, whenever the Swiss 
rivers running east and west break into a 
transverse valley, as the larger ones all do, 
and some more than once, they invariably, 
whether originally running east or westwards, 
turn towards the north. 

But although we thus get a clue to 
the general structure of Switzerland, the 
whole question is extremely complex, and 
the strata have been crumpled and folded 
in the most complicated manner, sometimes 
completely reversed, so that older rocks have 
been folded back on younger strata, and even 
in some cases these folds again refolded. 
Moreover, the denudation by aerial action, by 
glaciers, frosts, and rivers has removed hun- 
dreds, or rather thousands, of feet of strata. 
In fact, the mountain tops are not by any 
means the spots which have been most 
elevated, but those which have been least 
denuded ; and hence it is that so many of the 
peaks stand at about the same altitude. 



Our ancestors looked upon rivers as being in 
some sense alive, and in fact in their " struggle 
for existence" they not only labour to adapt 
their channel to their own requirements, but 
in many cases enter into conflict with one 

In the plain of Bengal, for instance, there 
are three great rivers, the Brahmapootra 
corning from the north, the Ganges from the 
west, and the Megna from the east, each of 
them with a number of tributary streams. 
Mr. Fergusson 1 has given us a most interest- 
ing and entertaining account of the struggles 
between these great rivers to occupy the 
fertile plain of Bengal. 

The Megna, though much inferior in size to 
the Brahmapootra, has one great advantage. 
It depends mainly on the monsoon rains for 
its supply, while the Brahmapootra not only 
has a longer course to run, but relies for its 
floods, to a great extent, on the melting of the 

l Geol. Jour., 1863. 


snow, so that, arriving later at the scene of 
the struggle, it finds the country already 
occupied by the Megna to such an extent that 
it has been driven nearly 70 miles northwards, 
and forced to find a new channel. 

Under these circumstances it has attacked 
the territory of the Ganges, and being in 
flood earlier than that river, though later 
than the Megna, it has in its turn a great 

Whatever the ultimate result may be the 
struggle continues vigorously. At Sooksaghur, 
says Fergusson, " there was a noble country 
house, built by Warren Hastings, about a mile 
from the banks of the Hoogly. When I first 
knew it in 1830 half the avenue of noble trees, 
which led from the river to the house, was 
gone ; when I last saw it, some eight years 
afterwards, the river was close at hand. Since 
then house, stables, garden, and village are all 
gone, and the river was on the point of break- 
ing through the narrow neck of high land 
that remained, and pouring itself into some 
weak-banded nullahs in the lowlands beyond : 
and if it had succeeded, the Hoogly would 


have deserted Calcutta. At this juncture the 
Eastern Bengal Railway Company intervened. 
They were carrying their works along the 
ridge, and they have, for the moment at least, 
stopped the oscillation in this direction." 

This has affected many of the other tribu- 
taries of the Ganges, so that the survey made 
by Rennell in 1780-90 is no longer any evi- 
dence as to the present course of the rivers. 
They may now be anywhere else ; in some 
cases all we can say is that they are certainly 
not now where they were then. 

The association of the three great European 
rivers, the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Danube, 
with the past history of our race, invests them 
with a singular fascination, and their past his- 
tory is one of much interest. They all three 
rise in the group of mountains between the 
Galenstock and the Bernardino, within a space 
of a few miles ; on the east the waters run into 
the Black Sea, on the north into the German 
Ocean, and on the west into the Mediterranean. 
But it has not always been so. Their head- 
waters have been at one time interwoven 


At present the waters of the Valais escape 
from the Lake of Geneva at the western end, 
and through the remarkable defile of Fort de 
1'Ecluse and Malpertius, which has a depth of 
600 feet, arid is at one place not more than 
14 feet across. Moreover, at various points 
round the Lake of Geneva, remains of lake 
terraces show that the water once stood at a 
level much higher than the present. One 
of these is rather more than 250 feet l above 
the lake. 

A glance at the map will show that be- 
tween Lausanne and Yverdun there is a low 
tract of land, and the Venoge, which falls 
into the Lake of Geneva between Lausanne 
and Morges, runs within about half a mile of 
the Nozon, which falls into the Lake of Neu- 
chatel at Yverdun, the two being connected 
by the Canal d'Entreroches, and the height 
of the watershed being only 76 metres (250 
feet), corresponding with the above mentioned 
lake terrace. It is evident, therefore, that 
when the Lake of Geneva stood at the level of 
the 250 feet terrace the waters ran out, not as 

1 Favre, Bech. Geol. de la Savoie. 


now at Geneva and by Lyons to the Mediter- 
ranean, but near Lausanne by Cissonay and 
Entreroches to Yverdun, and through the 
Lake of Neuchatel into the Aar and the Rhine. 

But this is not the whole of the curious 
history. At present the Aar makes a sharp 
turn to the west at Waldshut, where it falls 
into the Rhine, but there is reason to believe 
that at a former period, before the Rhine had 
excavated its present bed, the Aar continued 
its course eastward to the Lake of Constance, 
by the valley of the Klettgau, as is indicated by 
the presence of gravel beds containing pebbles 
which have been brought, not by the Rhine 
from the Grisons, but by the Aar from the 
Bernese Oberland, showing that the river 
which occupied the valley was not the Rhine 
but the Aar. It would seem also that at an 
early period the Lake of Constance stood at a 
considerably higher level, and that the outlet 
was, perhaps, from Frederichshaven to Ulm, 
along what are now the valleys of the 
Schussen and the Ried, into the Danube. 

Thus the head-waters of the Rhone appear 
to have originally run by Lausanne and the 


Lake of Constance into the Danube, and so to 
the Black Sea. Then, after the present valley 
was opened between Waldshut and Basle, 
they flowed by Basle and the present Rhine, 
and after joining the Thames, over the plain 
which now forms the German Sea into the 
Arctic Ocean between Scotland and Norway. 
Finally, after the opening of the passage at 
Fort de 1'Ecluse, by Geneva, Lyons, and the 
Valley of the Saone, to the Mediterranean. 

It must not, however, be supposed that 
these changes in river courses are confined to 
the lower districts. Mountain streams have 
also their adventures and vicissitudes, their 
wars and invasions. Take for instance the 
Upper Rhine, of which we have a very inter- 
esting account by Heim. It is formed of 
three main branches, the Vorder Rhine, Hinter 
Rhine, and the Albula. The two latter, after 
meeting near Thusis, unite with the Vorder 
Rhine at Reichenau, and run by Chur, May- 
enfeld, and Sargans into the Lake of Con- 
stance at Rheineck. At some former period, 
however, the drainage of this district was 
very different, as is shown in Fig. 43, 


The Vorder and Hinter Rhine united then 
(Fig. 43) as they do now at Reichenau, but at 
a much higher level, and ran to Mayenfeld, 
not by Chur, but by the Kunckel Pass to Sar- 
gans, and so on, not to the Lake of Constance, 
but to that of Zurich. The Landwasser at 
that time rose in the Schlappina Joch, and 
after receiving as tributaries the Vereina and 
the Sardasca, joined the Albula, as it does now 
at Tiefenkasten ; but instead of going round 
to meet the Hinter Rhine near Thusis, the 
two together travelled parallel with, but at 
some distance from, the Hinter Rhine, by 
Heide to Chur, and so to Mayenfeld. 

In the meanwhile, however, the Land- 
quart was stealthily creeping up the valley, 
attacked the ridge which then united the 
Casanna and the Madrishorn, and gradually 
forcing the passage, invaded (Fig. 44) the 
valleys of the Schlappina, Yereina, and Sar- 
dasca, absorbed them as tributaries, and, 
detaching them from their allegiance to the 
Landwasser, annexed the whole of the upper 
province which had formerly belonged to that 




The Schyn also gradually worked its way 
upwards from Thusis till it succeeded in 
sapping the Albula, and carried it down the 

L.afWaRenstadt? V 




Fig. 43. River system round Chur, as it used to be. 

valley to join the Yorder Rhine near Thusis. 
In what is now the main valley of the Rhine 
above Chur another stream ate its way 
back, and eventually tapped the main river 




at Reichenau, thus diverting it from the 
Kunckel, and carrying it round by Chur. 
At Sargans a somewhat similar process 








Fig. 44. River system round Chur, as it is. 

was repeated, with the addition that the 
material brought down by the Weisstannen, 
or perhaps a rockfall, deflected the Rhine, 
just as we see in Fig. 30 that the Rhone 


was pushed on one side by the Borgne. The 
Rhone, however, had no choice, it was obliged 
to force, and has forced its way over the cone 
deposited by the Borgne. The Rhine, on the 
contrary, had the option of running down by 
Vaduz to Rheinach, and has adopted this 
course. The watershed between it and the 
Weisstannen is, however, only about 20 feet 
in height, and the people of Zurich watch it 
carefully, lest any slight change should enable 
the river to return to its old bed. The result 
of all these changes is that the rivers have 
changed their courses from those shown in Fig. 
43 to their present beds as shown in Fig. 44. 

Another interesting case is that of the 
Upper Engadine (Fig. 45), to which attention 
has been called by Bonney and Heim. The fall 
of the Yal Bregaglia is much steeper than that 
of the Inn, and the Maira has carried off the 
head-waters of that river away into Italy. 
The Col was formerly perhaps as far south as 
Stampa : the Albegna, the Upper Maira, and 
the stream from the Forgno Glacier, originally 
belonged to the Inn, but have been captured 
by the Lower Maira. Their direction still 




indicates this ; they seem as if they regretted 
the unwelcome change, and yearned to rejoin 
their old companions. 

Moreover, as rivers are 
continually cutting back 
their valleys they must of 
course sometimes meet. 
In these cases when the 
valleys are at different 
levels the lower rivers 
have drained the upper 
ones, and left dry, deserted 
valleys. In other cases, 
especially in natter dis- 
tricts, we have bifurca- 
tions, as, for instance, at 
Sargans, and several of 
the Italian lakes. Every 
one must have been struck 
by the peculiar bifurcation 
of the Lakes of Como and 
Lugano, while a very slight 
depression would connect Fig .46.-RiTer .ystem of the 
the Lake Varese with the Maloya ' 

Maggiore, and give it also a double southern end. 



The problem of the origin of Lakes is by 
no means identical with that of Valleys. 
The latter are due, primarily as a rule to 
geological causes, but so far as their present 
condition is concerned, mainly to the action 
of rain and rivers. Flowing water, however, 
cannot give rise to lakes. 

It is of course possible to have valleys with- 
out lakes, and in fact the latter are, now at 
least, exceptional. There can be no lakes if 
the slope of the valley is uniform. To what 
then are lakes due ? 

Professor Ramsay divides Lakes into three 
classes : 

1. Those due to irregular accumulations of 
drift, and which are generally quite shallow. 

2. Those formed by moraines. 

3. Those which occupy true basins scooped 
by glacier ice out of the solid rock. 

To these must, however, I think be added 
at least one other great class and several 
minor ones, namely, 


4. Those due to inequalities of elevation 
or depression. 

5. Lakes in craters of extinct volcanoes, 
for instance, Lake Avernus. 

6. Those caused by subsidence due to the 
removal of underlying soluble rocks,' such as 
some of the Cheshire Meres. 

7. Loop lakes in deserted river courses, of 
which there are many along the course of the 

8. Those due to rockfalls, landslips, or lava 
currents, damming up the course of a river. 

9. Those caused by the advance of a gla- 
cier across a lateral valley, such as the Mer- 
gelen See, or the ancient lake whose margins 
form the celebrated " Parallel Roads of Glen 

As regards the first class we find here and 
there on the earth's surface districts sprinkled 
with innumerable shallow lakes of all sizes, 
down to mere pools. Such, for instance, occur 
in the district of Le Doubs between the 
Rhone and the Saone, that of La Sologne 
near Orleans, in parts of North America, and 
in Finland. Such lakes are, as a rule, quite 


shallow. Some geologists, Geikie, for in- 
stance, ascribe them to the fact of these 
regions having been covered by sheets of 
ice which strewed the land with irregular 
masses of clay, gravel, and sand, lying on a 
stratum impervious to water, either of hard 
rock such as granite or gneiss, or of clay, so 
that the rain cannot percolate through it, and 
without sufficient inclination to throw it off. 

2. To Ramsay's second class of Lakes 
belong those formed by moraines. The 
materials forming moraines being, however, 
comparatively loose, are easily cut through 
by streams. There are in Switzerland many 
cases of valleys crossed by old moraines, but 
they have generally been long ago worn 
through by the rivers. 

3. Ramsay and Tyndall attribute most of 
the great Swiss and Italian lakes to the action 
of glaciers, and regard them as rock basins. 
It is of course obvious that rivers cannot 
make basin-shaped hollows surrounded by 
rock on all sides. The Lake of Geneva, 
1230 feet above the sea, is over 1000 feet 
deep ; the Lake of Brienz is 1850 feet above 


the sea, and 2000 feet deep, so that its 
bottom is really below the sea level. The 
Italian Lakes are even more remarkable. 
The Lake of Como, 700 feet above the sea, 
is 1929 feet deep. Lago Maggiore, 685 feet 
above the sea, is no less than 2625 feet 

If the mind is at first staggered at the 
magnitude of the scale, we must remember 
that the ice which is supposed to have scooped 
out the valley in which the Lake of Geneva 
now reposes, was once at least 4000 feet 
thick ; while the moraines were also of 
gigantic magnitude, that of Ivrea, for in- 
stance, being no less than 1500 feet above 
the river, and several miles long. 

Indeed it is obvious that a glacier many 
hundred, or in some cases several thousand, 
feet in thickness, must exercise great pressure 
on the bed over which it travels. We see 
this from the striae and grooves on the solid 
rocks, and the fine mud which is carried down 
by glacial streams. The deposit of glacial 
rivers, the "loess" of the Rhine itself, is 
mainly the result of this ice-waste, and that is 


why it is so fine, so impalpable. That glaciers 
do deepen their beds seems therefore unques- 

Moreover, though the depth of some of 
these lakes is great, the true slope is very 

Tyndall and Ramsay do not deny that the 
original direction of valleys, and consequently 
of lakes, is due to cosmical causes and geo- 
logical structure, while even those who have 
most strenuously opposed the theory which 
attributes lakes to glacial erosion do not 
altogether deny the action of glaciers. Favre 
himself admits that " it is impossible to deny 
that valleys, after their formation, have been 
swept out and perhaps enlarged by rivers and 

Even Ruskin admits "that a glacier may 
be considered as a vast instrument of friction, 
a white sand-paper applied slowly but irresist- 
ibly to all the roughness of the hill which it 

It is obvious that sand-paper applied 
" irresistibly " and long enough, must 
gradually wear away and lower the surface. 


I cannot therefore resist the conclusion that 
glaciers have taken an important part in the 
formation of lakes. 

The question has sometimes been discussed 
as if the point at issue were whether rivers or 
glaciers were the most effective as excavators. 
But this is not so. Those who believe that 
lakes are in many cases due to glaciers might 
yet admit that rivers have greater power of 
erosion. There is, however, an essential dif- 
ference in the mode of action. Rivers tend 
to regularise their beds ; they drain, rather 
than form lakes. Their tendency is to cut 
through any projections so that finally their 
course assumes some such curve as that 
below, from the source (a) to its entrance into 
the sea &. 

Fig. 46. Final Slope of a River. 

Glaciers, however, have in addition a scoop- 
ing power, so that if similarly a d 1} in Fig. 
47 represent the course of a glacier, starting 
at a and gradually thinning out to e, it may 


scoop out the rock to a certain extent at d\ 
in that case if it subsequently retires say to 
c, there would be a lake lying in the basin 
thus formed between c and e. 

Fig. 47. 

On the other hand I am not disposed to 
attribute the Swiss lakes altogether to the 
action of glaciers. In the first place it does 
not seem clear that they occupy true rock 
basins. On this point more evidence is re- 
quired. That some lakes are due to unequal 
changes of level will hardly be denied. No 
one, for instance, as Bonney justly observes, 1 
would attribute the Dead Sea to glacial ero- 

The Alps, as we have seen, are a succession 
of great folds, and there is reason to regard 
the central one as the oldest. If then the 
same process continued, and the outer fold 
was still further raised, or a new one formed, 
more quickly than the rivers could cut it 

1 Growth and Structure of the Alps. 


back, they would be dammed up, and lakes 
would result. 

Moreover, if the formation of a mountain 
region be due to subsidence, and consequent 
crumpling, as indicated on p. 217, so that the 
strata which originally occupied the area A B 
C D are compressed into A' B' C' D', it is 
evident, as already mentioned, that while the 
line of least resistance, and, consequently, the 
principal folds might be in the direction A' B', 
there must also be a tendency to the forma- 
tion of similar folds at right angles, or in the 
direction A' C'. Thus, in the case of Switzer- 
land, while the main folds run south-west by 
north-east there would also be others at right 
angles, though the amount of folding might be 
much greater in the one direction than in the 
other. To this cause the bosses, for instance 

at Martigny, the Furca, and the Ober Alp, 

which intersect the great longitudinal val- 
ley of Switzerland, are perhaps due. 

The great American lakes also are probably 
due to differences of elevation. Kound Lake 
Ontario, for instance, there is a raised beach 
which at the western end of the lake is 363 


feet above the sea level, but rises towards the 
East x and North until near Fine it reaches an 
elevation of 972 feet. As this terrace must 
have been originally horizontal we have here 
a lake barrier, due to a difference of elevation, 
amounting to over 600 feet. 

In the same way we get a clue to the curi- 
ous cruciform shape of the Lake of Lucerne 
as contrasted with the simple outline of such 
lakes as those of Neuchatel or Zurich. That 
of Lucerne is a complex lake. Soundings 
have shown that the bottom of the Urner See 
is quite flat. It is in fact the old bed of the 
Reuss, which originally ran, not as now by 
Lucerne, but by Schwytz and through the 
Lake of Zug. In the same way the Alpnach 
See is the old bed of the Aa, which likewise 
ran through the Lake of Zug. The old river 
terraces of the Reuss can be traced in places 
between Brunnen and Goldau. Now these 
terraces must have originally sloped from the 
upper part downwards, from Brunnen towards 
Goldau. But at present the slope is the other 
way, i.e. from Goldau towards Brunnen. 
From this and other evidence we conclude 


that in the direction from Lucerne towards 
Rapperschwyl there has been an elevation of 
the land, which has dammed up the valleys 
and thus turned parts of the Aa and the 
Reuss into lakes the two branches of the 
Lake of Lucerne known as the Alpnach See 
and Urner See. 

During the earthquakes of 1819 while part 
of the Runn of Cutch, 2000 square miles in 
area, sunk several feet, a ridge of land, called 
by the natives the Ulla-Bund or " the wall of 
God," thirty miles long, and in parts sixteen 
miles wide, was raised across an ancient arm 
of the Indus, and turned it temporarily into 
a lake. 

In considering the great Italian lakes, 
which descend far below the sea level, we 
must remember that the Valley of the Po is a 
continuation of the Adriatic, now filled up 
and converted into land, by the materials 
brought down from the Alps. Hence we are 
tempted to ask whether the lakes may not 
be remains of the ancient sea which once 
occupied the whole plain. Moreover just as 
the Seals of Lake Baikal in Siberia carry us 


back to the time when that great sheet of 
fresh water was in connection with the Arctic 
Ocean, so there is in the character of the 
Fauna of the Italian lakes, and especially the 
presence of a Crab in the Lake of Garda, 
some confirmation of such an idea. Further 
evidence, however, is necessary before these 
interesting questions can be definitely an- 

Lastly, some lakes and inland seas seem to 
be due to even greater cosmical causes. Thus 
a line inclined ten degrees to the pole be- 
ginning at Gibraltar would pass through 
a great chain of inland waters the Medi- 
terranean, Black Sea, Caspian, Aral, Baikal, 
and back again through the great American 

But though many causes have contributed 
to the original formation and direction of 
Valleys, their present condition is mainly due 
to the action of water. When we contemplate 
such a valley, for example, as that which is 
called par excellence the " Yalais," we can at 
first hardly bring ourselves to realise this; 
but we can trace up valleys, from the little 


watercourse made by last night's rains up to 
the greatest valleys of all. 

These considerations, however, do not of 
course apply to such depressions as those 
of the great oceans. These were probably 
formed when the surface of the globe began 
to solidify, and, though with many modifica- 
tions, have maintained their main features 
ever since. 


The conditions thus briefly described repeat 
themselves in river after river, valley after 
valley, and it adds, I think, very much to the 
interest with which we regard them if, by 
studying the general causes to which they are 
due, we can explain their origin, and thus to 
some extent understand the story they have 
to tell us, and the history they record. 

What, then, has that history been ? The 
same valley may be of a very different char- 
acter, and due to very different causes, in dif- 
ferent parts of its course. Some valleys are 
due to folds (see Fig. 41) caused by sub terra- 


nean changes, but by far the greater number 
are, in their present features, mainly the re- 
sult of erosion. As soon as any tract of land 
rose out of the sea, the rain which fell on the 
surface would trickle downwards in a thou- 
sand rills, forming pools here and there (see 
Fig. 37), and gradually collecting into larger 
and larger streams. Wherever the slope was 
sufficient the water would begin cutting into 
the soil and carrying it off to the sea. This 
action would be the same in any case, but, 
of course, would differ in rapidity according 
to the hardness of the ground. On the 
other hand, the character of the valley 
would depend greatly on the character of 
the strata, being narrow where they were 
hard and tough ; broader, on the contrary, 
where they were soft, so that they crumbled 
readily into the stream, or where they were 
easily split by the weather. Gradually the 
stream would eat into its bed until it reached 
a certain slope, the steepness of which would 
depend on the volume of water. The erosive 
action would then cease, but the weathering 
of the sides and consequent widening would 


continue, and the river would wander from 
one part of its valley to another, spreading 
the materials and forming a river plain. At 
length, as the rapidity still further diminished, 
it would no longer have sufficient power even 
to carry off the materials brought down. It 
would form, therefore, a cone or delta, and 
instead of meandering, would tend to divide 
into different branches. These three stages, 
we may call those of 

1. Deepening and widening ; 

2. Widening and levelling ; 

3. Filling up; 

and every place in the second stage has passed 
through the first ; every one in the third has 
passed through the second. 

A velocity of 6 inches per second will lift 
fine sand, 8 inches will move sand as coarse 
as linseed, 12 inches will sweep along fine 
gravel, 24 inches will roll along rounded 
pebbles an inch diameter, and it requires 3 
feet per second at the bottom to sweep along 
angular stones of the size of an egg. 

When a river has so adjusted its slope that 
it neither deepens its bed in the upper portion 


of its course, nor deposits materials, it is said 
to have acquired its " regimen/' and in such 
a case if the character of the soil remains the 
same, the velocity must also be uniform. The 
enlargement of the bed of a river is not, how- 
ever, in proportion to the increase of its wa- 
ters as it approaches the sea. If, therefore, 
the slope did not diminish, the regimen would 
be destroyed, and the river would again com- 
mence to eat out its bed. Hence as rivers 
enlarge, the slope diminishes, and consequently 
every river tends to assume some such "regi- 
men " as that shown in Fig. 46. 

Now, suppose that the fall of the river is 
again increased, either by a fresh elevation, 
or locally by the removal of a barrier. Then 
once more the river regains its energy. Again 
it cuts into its old bed, deepening the valley, 
and leaving the old plain as a terrace high 
above its new course. In many valleys sev- 
eral such terraces may be seen, one above 
the other. In the case of a river running in a 
transverse valley, that is to say of a valley 
lying at right angles to the "strike" or direc- 
tion of the strata (such, for instance, as the 


Reuss), the water acts more effectively than 
in longitudinal valleys running along the 
strike. Hence the lateral valleys have been 
less deeply excavated than that of the Reuss 
itself, and the streams from them enter the 
main valley by rapids or cascades. Again, 
rivers running in transverse valleys cross 
rocks which in many cases differ in hardness, 
and of course they cut down the softer strata 
more rapidly than the harder ones ; each ridge 
of harder rock will therefore form a dam and 
give rise to a rapid, or cataract. We often 
as we ascend a river, after a comparatively 
flat plain, find ourselves in a narrow defile, 
down which the water rushes in an impet- 
uous torrent, but at the summit of which, 
to our surprise, we find another broad flat 

Another lesson which we learn from the 
study of river valleys, is that, just as geological 
structure was shown by Sir C. Lyell to be no 
evidence of cataclysms, but the result of slow 
action; so also the excavation of valleys is 
due mainly to the regular flow of rivers ; and 
floods, though their effects are more sudden 


and striking, have had, after all, comparatively 
little part in the result. 

The mouths of rivers fall into two princi- 
pal classes. If we look at any map we cannot 
but be struck by the fact that some rivers 
terminate in a delta, some in an estuary. The 
Thames, for instance, ends in a noble estuary, 
to which London owes much of its wealth 
and power. It is obvious that the Thames 
could not have excavated this estuary while 
the coast was at its present level. But we 
know that formerly the land stood higher, 
that the German Ocean was once dry land, 
and the Thames, after joining the Rhine, ran 
northwards, and fell eventually into the Arctic 
Ocean. The estuary of the Thames, then, 
dates back to a period when the south-east of 
England stood at a higher level than the 
present, and even now the ancient course of 
the river can be traced by soundings under 
what is now sea. The sites of present deltas, 
say of the Nile, were also once under water, 
and have been gradually reclaimed by the 
deposits of the river. 

It would indeed be a great mistake to 


suppose that rivers always tend to deepen 
their valleys. This is only the case when the 
slope exceeds a certain angle. When the fall 
is but slight they tend on the contrary to 
raise their beds by depositing sand and mud 
brought down from higher levels. Hence in 
the lower part of their course many of the 
most celebrated rivers the Nile, the Po, the 
Mississippi, the Thames, etc. run upon em- 
bankments, partly of their own creation. 

A n 

Fig. 48. Diagrammatic section of a valley (exaggerated) 

R R, rocky basis of valley; A A, sedimentary strata; B, ordinary level 
of river; C, flood level. 

The Reno, the most dangerous of all the 
Apennine rivers, is in some places as much as 
30 feet above the adjoining country. Rivers 
under such conditions, when not interfered 
with by Man, sooner or later break through 
their banks, and leaving their former bed, 
take a new course along the lowest part of 


their valley, which again they gradually raise 
above the rest. Hence, unless they are kept 
in their own channels by human agency, 
such rivers are continually changing their 

If we imagine a river running down a 
regularly inclined plane in a more or less 
straight line ; any inequality or obstruction 
would produce an oscillation, which when 
once started would go on increasing until 
the force of gravity drawing the water in a 
straight line downwards equals that of the 
force tending to divert its course. Hence the 
radius of the curves will follow a regular law 
depending on the volume of water and the 
angle of inclination of the bed. If the fall 
is 10 feet per mile and the soil homogeneous, 
the curves would be so much extended that 
the course would appear almost straight. 
With a fall of 1 foot per mile the length of 
the curve is, according to Fergusson, about 
six times the width of the river, so that a 
river 1000 feet wide would oscillate once in 
6000 feet. This is an important considera- 
tion, and much labour has been lost in trying 


to prevent rivers from following their natural 
law of oscillation. But rivers are very true to 
their own laws, and a change at any part is 
continued both upwards and downwards, so 
that a new oscillation in any place cuts its 
way through the whole plain of the river both 
above and below. 

The curves of the Mississippi are, for in- 
stance, for a considerable part of its course 
so regular that they are said to have been 
used by the Indians as a measure of dis- 

If the country is flat a river gradually 
raises the level on each side, the water which 
overflows during floods being retarded by 
reeds, bushes, trees, and a thousand other 
obstacles, gradually deposits the solid matter 
which it contains, and thus raising the sur- 
face, becomes at length suspended, as it were, 
above the general level. When this elevation 
has reached a certain point, the river during 
some flood bursts its banks, and deserting its 
old bed takes a new course along the lowest 
accessible level. This then it gradually fills 
up, and so on ; coming back from time to 


time if permitted, after a long cycle of years, 
to its first course. 

In evidence of the vast quantity of sediment 
which rivers deposit, I may mention that the 
river-deposits at Calcutta are more than 400 
feet in thickness. 

In addition to temporary " spates," due to 
heavy rain, most rivers are fuller at one time 
of year than another, our rivers, for instance, 
in winter, those of Switzerland, from the 
melting of the snow, in summer. The Nile 
commences to rise towards the beginning of 
July ; from August to October it floods all the 
low lands, and early in November it sinks 
again. At its greatest height the volume of 
water sometimes reaches twenty times that 
when it is lowest, and yet perhaps not a 
drop of rain may have fallen. Though we 
now know that this annual variation is due 
to the melting of the snow and the fall of 
rain on the high lands of Central Africa, still 
when we consider that the phenomenon has 
been repeated annually for thousands of years 
it is impossible not to regard it with wonder. 
In fact Egypt itself may be said to be the 
bed of the Nile in flood time. 


Some rivers, on the other hand, offer no 
such periodical differences. The lower Rhone, 
for instance, below the junction with the 
Saone, is nearly equal all through the year, 
and yet we know that the upper portion is 
greatly derived from the melting of the Swiss 
snows. In this case, however, while the 
Rhone itself is on this account highest in 
summer and lowest in winter, the Saone, on 
the contrary, is swollen by the winter's rain, 
and falls during the fine weather of summer. 
Hence the two tend to counterbalance one 

Periodical differences are of course com- 
paratively easy to deal with. It is very dif- 
ferent with floods due to irregular rainfall. 
Here also, however, the mere quantity of rain 
is by no means the only matter to be con- 
sidered. For instance a heavy rain in the 
watershed of the Seine, unless very prolonged, 
causes less difference in the flow of the river, 
say at Paris, than might at first have been 
expected, because the height of the flood in 
the nearer affluents has passed down the river 
before that from the more distant streams has 


arrived. The highest level is reached when 
the rain in the districts drained by the various 
affluents happens to be so timed that the 
different floods coincide in their arrival at 



There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, 
There is a rapture on the lonely shore, 
There is society, where none intrudes, 
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar : 
I love not Man the less, but Nature more, 
From these our interviews, in which I steal 
From all I may be, or have been before, 
To mingle with the Universe, and feel 
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal. 

Roll on, thou deep and dark-blue Ocean roll ! 




WHEN the glorious summer weather comes, 
when we feel that by a year's honest work we 
have fairly won the prize of a good holiday, 
how we turn instinctively to the Sea. We 
pine for the delicious smell of the sea air, the 
murmur of the waves, the rushing sound of 
the pebbles on the sloping shore, the cries of 
the sea-birds; and long to 

Linger, where the pebble-paven shore, 
Under the quick, faint kisses of the Sea, 
Trembles and sparkles as with ecstasy. 1 

How beautiful the sea-coast is ! At the 
foot of a cliff, perhaps of pure white chalk, or 
rich red sandstone, or stern grey granite, lies 
the shore of gravel or sand, with a few 

1 Shelley. 

Z 337 


scattered plants of blue Sea Holly, or yellow- 
flowered Horned Poppies, Sea-kale, Sea Con- 
volvulus, Saltwort, Artemisia, and Sea-grasses ; 
the waves roll leisurely in one by one, and as 
they reach the beach, each in turn rises up in 
an arch of clear, cool, transparent, green 
water, tipped with white or faintly pinkish 
foam, and breaks lovingly on the sands ; 
while beyond lies the open Sea sparkling in 
the sunshine. 

. . . O pleasant Sea 
Earth hath not a plain 
So boundless or so beautiful as thine. 1 

The Sea is indeed at times overpoweringly 
beautiful. At morning and evening a sheet 
of living silver or gold, at mid-day deep blue ; 

Too deeply blue ; too beautiful ; too bright ; 
Oh, that the shadow of a cloud might rest 
Somewhere upon the splendour of thy breast 
In momentary gloom. 2 

There are few prettier sights than the beach 
at a seaside town on a fine summer's day ; 
the waves sparkling in the sunshine, the water 

1 Campbell, 2 Holmes, 

ix THE SEA 339 

and sky each bluer than the other, while the 
sea seems as if it had nothing to do but to 
laugh and play with the children on the sands ; 
the children perseveringly making castles with 
spades and pails, which the waves then run 
up to and wash away, over and over and 
over again, until evening comes and the chil- 
dren go home, when the Sea makes every- 
thing smooth and ready for the next day's 

Many are satisfied to admire the Sea from 
shore, others more ambitious or more free 
prefer a cruise. They feel with Tennyson's 
voyager : 

We left behind the painted buoy 

That tosses at the harbour-mouth ; 
And madly danced our hearts with joy, 

As fast we fleeted to the South : 
How fresh was every sight and sound 

On open main or winding shore ! 
We knew the merry world was round, 

And we might sail for evermore. 

Many appreciate both. The long roll of 
the Mediterranean on a fine day (and I sup- 
pose even more of the Atlantic, which I have 
never enjoyed), far from land in a good ship, 


and with kind friends, is a joy never to be 

To the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic Ocean 
Northern Europe owes its mild climate. The 
same latitudes on the other side of the Atlantic 
are much colder. To find the same average 
temperature in the United States we must go 
far to the south. Immediately opposite us 
lies Labrador, with an average temperature 
the same as that of Greenland ; a coast 
almost destitute of vegetation, a country of 
snow and ice, whose principal wealth consists 
in its furs, and a scattered population, mainly 
composed of Indians and Esquimaux. But the 
Atlantic would not alone produce so great an 
effect. We owe our mild and genial climate 
mainly to the Gulf Stream a river in the 
ocean, twenty million times as great as the 
Rhone the greatest, and for us the most 
important, river in the world, which brings to 
our shores the sunshine of the West Indies. 

The Sea is outside time. A thousand, ten 
thousand, or a million years ago it must have 
looked just as it does now, and as it will ages 
hence. With the land this is not so. The 

ix THE SEA 341 

mountains and hills, rivers and valleys, 
animals and plants are continually changing : 
but the Sea is always the same, 

Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same 
Year after year. 

Directly we see the coast, or even a ship, 
the case is altered. Boats may remain the 
same for centuries, but ships are continually 
being changed. The wooden walls of old 
England are things of the past, and the iron- 
clads of to-day will soon be themselves im- 
proved off the face of the ocean. 

The great characteristic of Lakes is peace, 
that of the Sea is energy, somewhat restless, 
perhaps, but still movement without fatigue. 

The Earth lies quiet like a child asleep, 
The deep heart of the Heaven is calm and still, 
Must thou alone a restless vigil keep, 
And with thy sobbing all the silence fill. 1 

A Lake in a storm rather gives us the impres- 
sion of a beautiful Water Spirit tormented by 
some Evil Demon ; but a storm at Sea is one 
of the grandest manifestations of Nature, 
i Bell. 


Yet more ; the billows and the depths have more ; 

High hearts and brave are gathered to thy breast ; 
They hear not now the booming waters roar, 

The battle thunders will not break their rest. 

Keep thy red gold and gems, thou stormy grave ; 

Give back the true and brave. 1 

The most vivid description of a storm, at 
sea is, I think, the following passage from 
Raskin's Modern Painters : 

"Few people, comparatively, have ever 
seen the effect on the sea of a powerful gale 
continued without intermission for three or 
four days and nights ; and to those who have 
not, I believe it must be unimaginable, not 
from the mere force or size of the surge, but 
from the complete annihilation of the limit 
between sea and air. The water from its pro- 
longed agitation is beaten, not into mere 
creaming foam, but into masses of accumu- 
lated yeast, which hangs in ropes and wreaths 
from wave to wave, and, where one curls over 
to break, form a festoon like a drapery from 
its edge ; these are taken up by the wind, not 
in dissipating dust, but bodily, in writhing, 
hanging, coiling masses, which make the air 

i Hemans. 

ix THE SEA 343 

white and thick as with snow, only the flakes 
are a foot or two long each : the surges them- 
selves are full of foam in their very bodies 
underneath, making them white all through, 
as the water is under a great cataract ; and 
their masses, being thus half water and half 
air, are torn to pieces by the wind whenever 
they rise, and carried away in roaring smoke, 
which chokes and strangles like actual water. 
Add to this, that when the air has been ex- 
hausted of its moisture by long rain, the spray 
of the sea is caught by it as described above, 
and covers its surface not merely with the 
smoke of finely divided water, but with boil- 
ing mist ; imagine also the low rain-clouds 
brought down to the very level of the sea, as 
I have often seen them, whirling and flying in 
rags and fragments from wave to wave ; and 
finally, conceive the surges themselves in their 
utmost pitch of power, velocity, vastness, and 
madness, lifting themselves in precipices and 
peaks, furrowed with their whirl of ascent, 
through all this chaos, and you will under- 
stand that there is indeed no distinction left 
between the sea and air ; that no object, nor 


horizon, nor any landmark or natural evidence 
of position is left ; and the heaven is all spray, 
and the ocean all cloud, and that you can see 
no further in any direction than you see 
through a cataract." 


The Sea teems with life. The Great Sea 
Serpent is, indeed, as much a myth as the 
Kraken of Pontoppidan, but other monsters, 
scarcely less marvellous, are actual realities. 
The Giant Cuttle Fish of Newfoundland, 
though the body is comparatively small, may 
measure 60 feet from the tip of one arm to 
that of another. The Whalebone Whale 
reaches a length of over 70 feet, but is timid 
and inoffensive. The Cachalot or Sperm 
Whale, which almost alone among animals 
roams over the whole ocean, is as large, and 
much more formidable. It is armed with 
powerful teeth, and is said to feed mainly on 
Cuttle Fish, but sometimes on true fishes, or 
even Seals. When wounded it often attacks 
boats, and its companions do not hesitate to 

ix THE SEA 345 

come to the rescue. In one case, indeed, an 
American ship was actually attacked, stove 
in, and sunk by a gigantic male Cachalot. 

The Great Roqual is still more formidable, 
and has been said to attain a length of 120 
feet, but this is probably an exaggeration. 
So far as we know, the largest species of all 
is Simmond's Whale, which reaches a maxi- 
mum of 85 to 90 feet. 

In former times Whales were frequent on 
our coasts, so that, as Bishop Pontoppidan 
said, the sea sometimes appeared as if covered 
with smoking chimneys, but they have been 
gradually driven further and further north, 
and are still becoming rarer. As they re- 
treated man followed, and to them we owe 
much of our progress in geography. Is it 
not, however, worth considering whether they 
might not also be allowed a " truce of God," 
whether some part of the ocean might not be 
allotted to them where they might be allowed 
to breed in peace ? As a mere mercantile 
arrangement the maritime nations would prob- 
ably find this very remunerative. The reck- 
less slaughter of Whales, Sea Elephants, Seals, 


and other marine animals is a sad blot, not 
only on the character, but on the common 
sense, of man. 

The monsters of the ocean require large 
quantities of food, but they are supplied 
abundantly. Scoresby mentions cases in 
which the sea was for miles tinged of an 
olive green by a species of Medusa. He 
calculates that in a cubic mile there must 
have been 23,888,000,000,000,000, and though 
no doubt the living mass did not reach to any 
great depth, still, as he sailed through water 
thus discoloured for many miles, the number 
must have been almost incalculable. 

This is, moreover, no rare or exceptional 
case. Navigators often sail for leagues 
through shoals of creatures, which alter the 
whole colour of the sea, and actually change 
it, as Reclus says, into " une masse animee." 

Still, though the whole ocean teems with 
life, both animals and plants are most abun- 
dant near the coast. Air-breathing animals, 
whether mammals or insects, are naturally 
not well adapted to live far from dry land. 
Even Seals, though some of them make re- 

ix THE SEA 347 

markable migrations, remain habitually near 
the shore. Whales alone are specially modified 
so as to make the wide ocean their home. Of 
birds the greatest wanderer is the Albatross, 
which has such powers of flight that it is said 
even to sleep on the wing. 

Many Pelagic animals Jelly-fishes, Mol- 
luscs, Cuttle-fishes, Worms, Crustacea, and 
some true fishes are remarkable for having 
become perfectly transparent ; their shells, 
muscles, and even their blood have lost all 
colour, or even undergone the further modifi- 
cation of having become blue, often with 
beautiful opalescent reflections. This obvi- 
ously renders them less visible, and less liable 
to danger. 

The sea-shore, wherever a firm hold can be 
obtained, is covered with Sea-weeds, which 
fall roughly into two main divisions, olive- 
green and red, the latter colour having a special 
relation to light. These Sea-weeds afford 
food and shelter to innumerable animals. 

The clear rocky pools left by the retiring 
tide are richly clothed with green sea-weeds, 
while against the sides are tufts of beautiful 


filmy red algae, interspersed with Sea-anem- 
ones/ white, creamy, pink, yellow, purple, 
with a coronet of blue beads, and of many 
mixed colours ; Sponges, Corallines, Starfish, 
Limpets, Barnacles, and other shell-fish ; 
feathery Zoophytes and Annelides expand their 
pink or white disks, while here and there a 
Crab scuttles across ; little Fish or Shrimps 
timidly come out from crevices in the rocks, 
or from among the fronds of the sea-weeds, or 
hastily dart from shelter to shelter ; each 
little pool is, in fact, a miniature ocean in 
itself, and the longer one looks the more and 
more one will see. 

The dark green and brown sea-weeds do 
not live beyond a few say about 15 
fathoms in depth. Below them occur delicate 
scarlet species, with Corallines and a different 
set of shells, Sea-urchins, etc. Down to about 
100 fathoms the animals and plants are still 
numerous and varied. But they gradually 
diminish in numbers, and are replaced by new 

To appreciate fully the extreme loveliness 
of marine animals they must be seen alive. 

ix THE SEA 349 

"A tuft of Sertularia, laden with white, or 
brilliantly tinted Polyp ites," says Hincks, 
"like blossoms on some tropical tree, is .a per- 
fect marvel of beauty. The unfolding of a 
mass of Plumularia, taken from amongst the 
miscellaneous contents of the dredge, and 
thrown into a bottle of clear sea- water, is a 
sight which, once seen, no dredger will for- 
get. A tree of Campanularia, when each one 
of its thousand transparent calycles itself a 
study of form is crowned by a circlet of 
beaded arms, drooping over its margin like 
the petals of a flower^ offers a rare combi- 
nation of the elements of beauty. 

The rocky wall of some deep tidal pool, 
thickly studded with the long and slender 
stems of Tubularia, surmounted by the bright 
rose-coloured heads, is like the gay parterre 
of a garden. Equally beautiful is the dense 
growth of Campanularia, covering (as I have 
seen it in Plymouth Sound) large tracts of the 
rock, its delicate shoots swaying to and fro 
with each movement of the water, like trees 
in a storm, or the colony of Obelia on the 
waving frond of the tangle looking almost 


ethereal in its grace, transparency, and deli- 
cacy, as seen against the coarse dark surface 
that supports it." 

Few things are more beautiful than to look 
down from a boat into transparent water. 
At the bottom wave graceful sea-weeds, brown, 
green, or rose-coloured, and of most varied 
forms ; on them and on the sands or rocks 
rest starfishes, mollusca, crustaceans, Sea- 
anemones, and innumerable other animals of 
strange forms and varied colours ; in the clear 
water float or dart about endless creatures; 
true fishes, many of them brilliantly coloured ; 
Cuttle-fishes like bad dreams ; Lobsters and 
Crabs with graceful, transparent Shrimps ; 
Worms swimming about like living ribbons, 
some with thousands of coloured eyes, and 
Medusae like living glass of the richest and 
softest hues, or glittering in the sunshine with 
all the colours of the rainbow. 

And on calm, cool nights how often have I 
stood on the deck of a ship watching with 
wonder and awe the stars overhead, and the 
sea-fire below, especially in the foaming, 
silvery wake of the vessel, where often sud- 

ix THE SEA 351 

denly appear globes of soft and lambent light, 
given out perhaps from the surface of some 
large Medusa. 

"A beautiful white cloud of foarn," says 
Coleridge, "at momently intervals coursed by 
the side of the vessel with a roar, and little 
stars of flame danced and sparkled and went 
out in it ; and every now and then light de- 
tachments of this white cloud-like foam darted 
off from the vessel's side, each with its own 
small constellation, over the sea, and scoured 
out of sight like a Tartar troop over a wilder- 


Fish also are sometimes luminous. The 
Sun-fish has been seen to glow like a white- 
hot cannon-ball, and in one species of Shark 
(Squalus fulgens) the whole surface sometimes 
gives out a greenish lurid light which makes 
it a most ghastly object, like some great 
ravenous spectre. 


The Land bears a rich harvest of life, but 
only at the surface. The Ocean, on the con- 


trary, though more richly peopled in its upper 
layers, which swarm with such innumerable 
multitudes of living creatures that they are, 
so to say, almost themselves alive teems 
throughout with living beings. 

The deepest abysses have a fauna of their 
own, which makes up for the comparative 
scantiness of its numbers, by the peculiarity 
and interest of their forms and organisation. 
The middle waters are the home of various 
Fishes, Medusae, and animalcules, while the 
upper layers swarm with an inexhaustible 
variety of living creatures. 

It used to be supposed that the depths of 
the Ocean were destitute of animal life, but 
recent researches, and especially those made 
during our great national expedition in the 
"Challenger," have shown that this is not 
the case, but that the Ocean depths have a 
wonderful and peculiar life of their own. 
Fish have been dredged up even from a depth 
of 2750 fathoms. 

The conditions of life in the Ocean depths 
are very peculiar. The light of the sun can- 
not penetrate beyond about two hundred 

ix THE SEA 353 

fathoms ; deeper than this complete darkness 
prevails. Hence in many species the eyes 
have more or less completely disappeared. 

Sir Wyville Thomson mentions a kind of 
Crab (Ethusa granulata), which when living 
near the surface has well developed eyes ; in 
deeper water, 100 to 400 fathoms, eyestalks 
are present, but the animal is apparently 
blind, the eyes themselves being absent ; 
while in specimens from a depth of 500-700 
fathoms the eyestalks themselves have lost 
their special character, and have become 
fixed, their terminations being combined into 
a strong, pointed beak. 

In other deep sea creatures, on the con- 
trary, the eyes gradually become more and 
more developed, so that while in some species 
the eyes gradually dwindle, in others they 
become unusually large. 

Many of the latter species may be said to 
be a light to themselves, being provided with 
a larger or smaller number of curious luminous 
organs. The deep sea fish are either silvery^ 
pink, or in many cases black, sometimes re- 
lieved with scarlet, and when the luminous 

2 A 


organs flash out must present a very remark- 
able appearance. 

We have still much to learn as to the 
structure and functions of these organs, but 
there are cases in which their use can be 
surmised with some probability. The light- 
is evidently under the will of the fish. 1 It is 
easy to imagine a Photichthys (Light Fish) 
swimming in the black depths of the Ocean, 
suddenly flashing out light from its luminous 
organs, and thus bringing into view any prey 
which may be near ; while, if danger is dis- 
closed, the light is again at once extinguished. 
It may be observed that the largest of these 
organs is in this species situated just under 
the eye, so that the fish is actually provided 
with a bull's eye lantern. In other cases the 
light may rather serve as a defence, some 
having, as, for instance, in the genus Scope- 
lus, a pair of large ones in the tail, so that 
" a strong ray of light shot forth from the 
stern-chaser may dazzle and frighten an 

In other cases they appear to serve as 

1 Gunther, History of Fishes. 

ix THE SEA 355 

lures. The " Sea-devil "or" Angler " of 
our coasts has on its head three long, very 
flexible, reddish filaments, while all round its 
head are fringed appendages, closely resem- 
bling fronds of sea-weed. The fish conceals 
itself at the bottom, in the sand or among 
sea-weed, and dangles the long filaments in 
front of its mouth. Little fishes, taking these 
filaments for worms, unsuspectingly approach, 
and thus fall victims. 

Several species of the same family live at 
great depths, and have very similar habits. 
A mere red filament would be invisible in the 
dark and therefore useless. They have, how- 
ever, developed a luminous organ, a living 
" glow-lamp," at the end of the filament, 
which doubtless proves a very effective lure. 

In the great depths, however, fish are com- 
paratively rare. Nor are Molluscs much more 
abundant. Sea-urchins, Sea Slugs, and Star- 
fish are more numerous, and on one occasion 
20,000 specimens of an Echinus were brought 
up at a single haul. True corals are rare, nor 
are Hydrozoa frequent, though a gaint species, 
allied to the little Hydra of our ponds but 


upwards of 6 feet in height, has more than 
once been met with. Sponges are numerous, 
and often very beautiful. The now well 
known Euplectella, " Venus' s Flower-basket," 
resembles an exquisitely delicate fabric woven 
in spun silk ; it is in the form of a gracefully 
curved tube, expanding slightly upwards and 
ending in an elegant frill. The wall is formed 
of parallel bands of glassy siliceous fibres, 
crossed by others at right angles, so as to 
form a square meshed net. These sponges 
are anchored on the fine ooze by wisps of 
glassy filaments, which often attain a con- 
siderable length. Many of these beautiful 
organisms, moreover, glow when alive with 
a soft diffused light, flickering and sparkling 
at every touch. What would one not give 
to be able to wander a while in these wonder- 
ful regions ! 

It is curious that no plants, so far as we 
know, grow in the depths of the Ocean, or, 
indeed, as far as our present information goes, 
at a greater depth than about 100 fathoms. 

As regards the nature of the bottom itself, 
it is in the neighbourhood of land mainly 

ix THE SEA 357 

composed of materials, brought down by 
rivers or washed from the shore, coarser near 
the coast, and tending to become finer and 
finer as the distance increases and the water 
deepens. The bed of the Atlantic from 400 
to 2000 fathoms is covered with an ooze, or 
very fine chalky deposit, consisting to a great 
extent of minute and more or less broken 
shells, especially those of Globigerina. At 
still greater depths the carbonate of lime 
gradually disappears, and the bottom consists 
of fine red clay, with numerous minute parti- 
cles, some of volcanic, some of meteoric, origin, 
fragments of shooting stars, over 100,000,000 
of which are said to strike the surface of our 
earth every year. How slow the process of 
deposition must be, may be inferred from the 
fact that the trawl sometimes brings up many 
teeth of Sharks and ear-bones of Whales (in 
one case no less than 600 teeth and 100 ear- 
bones), often semi-fossil, and which from their 
great density had remained intact for ages, 
long after all the softer parts had perished 
and disappeared. 

The greatest depth of the Ocean appears 

/''y* OP 




to coincide roughly with the greatest height 
of the mountains. There are indeed cases 
recorded in which it is said that "no bottom" 
was found even at 39,000 feet. It is, how- 
ever, by no means easy to sound at such great 
depths, and it is now generally considered 
that these earlier observations are untrust- 
worthy. The greatest depth known in the 
Atlantic is 3875 fathoms a little to the 
north of the Virgin Islands, but the sound- 
ings as yet made in the deeper parts of the 
Ocean are few in number, and it is not to be 
supposed that the greatest depth has yet been 


In many parts of the world the geography 
itself has been modified by the enormous de- 
velopment of animal life. Most islands fall 
into one of three principal categories : 

Firstar, Those which are in reality a part 
of the continent near which they lie, being 
connected by comparatively shallow water, 
and standing to the continent somewhat in 




the relation of planets to the sun; as, for 
instance, the Cape de Verde Islands to Africa, 
Ceylon to India, or Tasmania to Australia. 
Secondly, Volcanic islands ; and 
Thirdly, Those which owe their origin to 
the growth of Coral reefs. 

Fig. 49. Whitsunday Island. 

Coral islands are especially numerous in 
the Indian and Pacific Oceans, where there 
are innumerable islets, in the form of rings, 
or which together form rings, the rings them- 
selves being sometimes made up of ringlets. 
These "atolls" contain a circular basin of 
yellowish green, clear, shallow water, while 
outside is the dark blue deep water of the 
Ocean. The islands themselves are quite low, 
with a beach of white sand rising but a few 


feet above the level of the water, and bear 
generally groups of tufted Cocoa Palms. 

It used to be supposed that these were the 
summits of submarine volcanoes on which the 
coral had grown. But as the reef-making 
coral does not live at greater depths than 
about twenty-five fathoms, the immense 
number of these reefs formed an almost 
insuperable objection to this theory. The 
Laccadives and Maldives for instance mean- 
ing literally the " lac of or 100,000 islands," 
and the " thousand islands" are a series of 
such atolls, and it was impossible to imagine 
so great a number of craters, all so nearly of 
the same altitude. 

In shallow tracts of sea, coral reefs no 
doubt tend to assume the well-known circular 
form, but the difficulty was to account for 
the numerous atolls which rise to the surface 
form the abysses of the ocean, while the coral- 
forming zoophytes can only live near the 

Darwin showed that so far from the 
ring of corals resting on a corresponding 
ridge of rocks, the lagoons, on the contrary, 

ix THE SEA 361 

now occupy the place which was once the 
highest land. He pointed out that some 
lagoons, as for instance that of Vanikoro, 
contain an island in the middle ; while other 
islands, such as Tahiti, are surrounded by a 
margin of smooth water separated from the 
ocean by a coral reef. Now if we suppose 
that Tahiti were to sink slowly it would 
gradually approximate to the condition of 
Yanikoro ; and if Vanikoro gradually sank, 
the central island would disappear, while on 
the contrary the growth of the coral might 
neutralise the subsidence of the reef, so that 
we should have simply an atoll with its 
lagoon. The same considerations explain the 
origin of the "barrier reefs," such as that 
which runs for nearly a thousand miles, along 
the north-east coast of Australia. Thus 
Darwin's theory explains the form and the 
approximate identity of altitude of these 
coral islands. But it does more than 
this, because it shows that there are great 
areas in process of subsidence, which though 
slow, is of great importance in physical 


The lagoon islands have received much 
attention ; which " is not surprising, for every 
one must be struck with astonishment, when 
he first beholds one of these vast rings of 
coral-rock, often many leagues in diameter, 
here and there surmounted by a low verdant 
island with dazzling white shores, bathed on 
the outside by the foaming breakers of the 
ocean, and on the inside surrounding a calm 
expanse of water, which, from reflection is 
generally of a bright but pale green colour. 
The naturalist will feel this astonishment more 
deeply after having examined the soft and 
almost gelatinous bodies of these apparently 
insignificant coral-polypifers, and when he 
knows that the solid reef increases only on the 
outer edge, which day and night is lashed by 
the breakers of an ocean never at rest. Well 
did Francois Pyrard de Laval, in the year 
1605 exclaim, ' C'est une -merveille de voir 
chacun de ces atollons, environne d'un grand 
bane de pierre tout autour, n'y ayant point 
d' artifice hum am.' " l 

Of the enchanting beauty of the coral beds 

1 Darwin, Coral Beefs. 

ix THE SEA 363 

themselves we are assured that language con- 
veys no adequate idea. " There were corals," 
says Prof. Ball, " which, in their living state, 
are of many shades of fawn, buff, pink, and 
blue, while some were tipped with a magenta- 
like bloom. Sponges which looked as hard as 
stone spread over wide areas, while sprays of 
coralline added their graceful forms to the 
picture. Through the vistas so formed, golden- 
banded and metallic-blue fish meandered, while 
on the patches of sand here and there Holo- 
thurias and various mollusca and crustaceans 
might be seen slowly crawling." 

Abercromby also gives a very graphic 
description of a Coral reef. "As we ap- 
proached," he says, " the roaring surf on 
the outside, fingery lumps of beautiful live 
coral began to appear of the palest lavender- 
blue colour ; and when at last we were almost 
within the spray, the whole floor was one 
mass of living branches of coral. 

" But it is only when venturing as far as is 
prudent into the water, over the outward edge 
of the great sea wall, that the true character 
of the reef and all the beauties of the ocean 


can be really seen. After walking over a flat 
uninteresting tract of nearly bare rock, you 
look down and see a steep irregular wall, 
expanding deeper into the ocean than the eye 
can follow, and broken into lovely grottoes 
and holes and canals, through which small 
resplendent fish of the brightest blue or gold 
flit fitfully between the lumps of coral. The 
sides of these natural grottoes are entirely 
covered with endless forms of tender-coloured 
coral, but all beautiful, and all more or less of 
the fingery or branching species, known as 
madrepores. It is really impossible to draw 
or describe the sight, which must be taken 
with all its surroundings as adjuncts." l 

The vegetation of these fairy lands is also 
very lovely ; the Coral tree (Erythrina) with 
light green leaves and bunches of scarlet 
blossoms, the Cocoa-nut always beautiful, the 
breadfruit, the graceful tree ferns, the 
Barringtonia, with large pink and white 
flowers, several species of Convolvulus, 
and many others unknown to us even by 

1 Abercromby, Seas and Skies in many Latitudes. 

ix THE SEA 365 


In considering these exquisite scenes, the 
beauty of the Southern skies must not be 
omitted. "From the time we entered the 
torrid zone/' says Humboldt, "we were never 
wearied with admiring, every night, the 
beauty of the southern sky, which, as we 
advanced towards the south, opened new 
constellations to our view. We feel an inde- 
scribable sensation, when, on approaching the 
equator, and particularly on passing from 
one hemisphere to the other, we see those 
stars which we have contemplated from our 
infancy, progressively sink, and finally dis- 
appear. Nothing awakens in the traveller a 
livelier remembrance of the immense distance 
by which he is separated from his country, 
than the aspect of an unknown firmament. 
The grouping of the stars of the first magni- 
tude, some scattered nebulae rivalling in 
splendour the milky way, and tracts of space 
remarkable for their extreme blackness, give 
a particular physiognomy to the southern sky. 
This sight fills with admiration even those, 


who, uninstructed in the branches of accurate 
science, feel the same emotions of delight in 
the contemplation of the heavenly vault, as 
in the view of a beautiful landscape, or a 
majestic river. A traveller has no need of 
being a botanist to recognise the torrid zone 
on the mere aspect of its vegetation; and, 
without having acquired any notion of 
astronomy, he feels he is not in Europe, when 
he sees the immense constellation of the Ship, 
or the phosphorescent clouds of Magellan, 
arise on the horizon. The heaven and the 
earth, in the equinoctial regions, assume an 
exotic character." 

" The sunsets in the Eastern Archipelago," 
says H. 0. Forbes, 1 "were scenes to be re- 
membered for a life-time. The tall cones of 
Sibissie and Krakatoa rose dark purple out of 
an unruffled golden sea, which stretched away 
to the south-west, where the sun went down ; 
over the horizon gray fleecy clouds lay in 
banks and streaks, above them pale blue lanes 
.of sky, alternating with orange bands, which 
higher up gave place to an expanse of 

1 A Naturalises Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago. 

ix THE SEA 367 

red stretching round the whole heavens. 
Gradually as the sun retreated deeper and 
deeper, the sky became a marvellous golden 
curtain, in front of which the gray clouds 
coiled themselves into weird forms before 
dissolving into space. ..." 



The Arctic and Antarctic regions have 
always exercised a peculiar fascination over 
the human mind. Until now every attempt 
to reach the North Pole has failed, and the 
South has proved even more inaccessible. 
In the north, Parry all but reached lat. 83 ; 
in the south no one has penetrated beyond 
lat. 71.11. And yet, while no one can say 
what there may be round the North Pole, and 
some still imagine that open water might be 
found there, we can picture to ourselves the 
extreme South with somewhat more confidence. 

Whenever ships have sailed southwards, 
except at a few places where land has been 
met with, they have come at last to a wall of 
ice, from fifty to four hundred feet high. In 


those regions it snows, if not incessantly, at 
least very frequently, and the snow melts but 
little. As far as the eye can reach nothing is 
to be seen but snow. Now this snow must 
gradually accumulate, and solidify into ice, 
until it attains such a slope that it will move 
forward as a glacier. The enormous Icebergs 
of the Southern Ocean, moreover, show that 
it does so, and that the snow of the extreme 
south, after condensing into ice, moves slowly 
outward and at length forms a wall of ice, 
from which Icebergs, from time to time, 
break away. We do not exactly know what, 
under such circumstances, the slope would 
be ; but Mr. Croll points out that if we take 
it at only half a degree, and this seems quite 
a minimum, the Ice cap at the South Pole 
must be no less than twelve miles in thickness. 
It is indeed probably even more, for some of 
the Southern tabular icebergs attain a height 
of eight hundred, or even a thousand feet 
above water, indicating a total thickness of 
the ice sheet even at the edge, of over a mile. 
Sir James Ross mentions that " Whilst 
measuring some angles for the survey near 

ix THE SEA 369 

Mount Lubbock an island suddenly appeared, 
which he was quite sure was not to be seen 
two or three hours previously. He was much 
astonished, but it eventually turned out to be 
a large iceberg, which had turned over, and so 
exposed a new surface covered with earth and 

The condition of the Arctic regions is quite 
different. There is much more land, and no 
such enormous solid cap of ice. Spitzbergen, 
the land of " pointed mountains," is said to be 
very beautiful. Lord Dufferin describes his 
first view of it as " a forest of thin lilac peaks, 
so faint, so pale, that had it not been for 
the gem-like distinctness of their outline one 
could have deemed them as unsubstantial as 
the spires of Fairy-land." 

It is, however, very desolate ; scarcely any 
vegetation excepting a dark moss, and even 
this goes but a little way up the mountain 
side. Scoresby ascended one of the hills near 
Horn Sound, and describes the view as " most 
extensive and grand. A fine sheltered bay 
was seen to the east of us, an arm of the same 
on the north-east, and the sea, whose glassy 



surface was unruffled by a breeze, formed an 
immense expanse on the west ; the glaciers," 
rearing their proud crests almost to the tops 
of mountains between which they were lodged, 
and defying the power of the solar beams, 
were scattered in various directions about the 
sea-coast and in the adjoining bays. Beds of 
snow and ice filling extensive hollows, and 
giving an enamelled coat to adjoining valleys, 
one of which, commencing at the foot of the 
mountain where we stood, extended in a con- 
tinual line towards the north, as far as the eye 
could reach mountain rising above moun- 
tain, until by distance they dwindled into 
insignificance, the whole contrasted by a cloud- 
less canopy of deepest azure, and enlightened 
by the rays of a blazing sun, and the effect, 
aided by a feeling of danger, seated as we 
were on the pinnacle of a rock almost sur- 
rounded by tremendous precipices all united 
to constitute a picture singularly sublime." 

One of the glaciers of Spitzbergen is 11 
miles in breadth when it reaches the sea- 
coast, th& highest part of the precipitous front 
adjoining the sea being over 400 feet, and it 

ix THE SEA 371 

extends far upwards towards the summit of 
the mountain. The surface forms an inclined 
plane of smooth unsullied snow, the beauty 
and brightness of which render it a con- 
spicuous landmark on that inhospitable shore. 
From the perpendicular face great masses of 
ice from time to time break away, 

Whose blocks of sapphire seem to mortal eye 
Hewn from cserulean quarries of the sky. 1 

Field ice is comparatively flat, though it 
may be piled up perhaps as much as 50 feet. 
It is from glaciers that true icebergs, the 
beauty and brilliance of which Arctic trav- 
ellers are never tired of describing, take their 

The attempts to reach the North Pole have 
cost many valuable lives; Willoughby and 
Hudson, Behring and Franklin, and many 
other brave mariners ; but yet there are few 
expeditions more popular than those to " the 
Arctic," and we cannot but hope that it is 
still reserved for the British Navy after so 
many gallant attempts at length to reach the 
North Pole. 

1 Montgomery. 



A man can hardly lift up his eyes towards the heavens 
without wonder and veneration, to see so many millions of 
radiant lights, and to observe their courses and revolutions, 
even without any respect to the common good of the 
Universe. SENECA. 



MANY years ago I paid a visit to Naples, 
and ascended Vesuvius to see the sun rise from 
the top of the mountain. We went up to 
the Observatory in the evening and spent the 
night outside. The sky was clear; at our 
feet was the sea, and round the bay the lights 
of Naples formed a lovely semicircle. Far 
more beautiful, however, were the moon and 
the stars overhead ; the moon throwing a 
silver path over the water, and the stars 
shining in that clear atmosphere with a 
brilliance which I shall never forget. 

For ages and ages past men have admired 
the same glorious spectacle, and yet neither 
the imagination of Man nor the genius of 
Poetry had risen to the truer and grander 



conceptions of the Heavens for which we 
are indebted to astronomical Science. The 
mechanical contrivances by which it was 
attempted to explain the movements of the 
heavenly bodies were clumsy and prosaic 
when compared with the great discovery of 
Newton. Kuskin is unjust I think when he 
says " Science teaches us that the clouds are 
a sleety mist ; Art, that they are a golden 
throne." I should be the last to disparage 
the debt we owe to Art, but for our knowl- 
edge, and even more, for bur appreciation, 
feeble as even yet it is, of the overwhelming 
grandeur of the Heavens, we are mainly in- 
debted to Science. 

There is scarcely a form which the fancy of 
Man has not sometimes detected in the clouds, 
chains of mountains, splendid cities, storms 
at sea, flights of birds, groups of animals, 
monsters of all kinds, and our superstitious 
ancestors often terrified themselves by fantas- 
tic visions of arms and warriors and battles 
which they regarded as portents of coming 
calamities. There is hardly a day on which 
Clouds do not delight and surprise us by their 


To face pat ye 377. 


forms and colours. They belong, however, to 
our Earth, and I must now pass on to the 
heavenly bodies. 


The Moon is the nearest, and being the 
nearest, appears to us, with the single excep- 
tion of the Sun, the largest, although it is in 
reality one of the smallest, of the heavenly 
bodies. Just as the Earth goes round the 
Sun, and the period of revolution constitutes 
a year, so the Moon goes round the Earth 
approximately in a period of one month. 
But while we turn on our axis every twenty- 
four hours, thus causing the alternation of 
light and darkness day and night the 
Moon takes a month to revolve on hers, so 
that she always presents the same, or very 
nearly the same, surface to us. 

Seeing her as we do, not like the Sun and 
Stars, by light of her own, but by the reflected 
light of the Sun, her form appears to change, 
because the side upon which the Sun shines 
is not always that which we see. Hence the 


"phases" of the Moon, which add so much to 
her beauty and interest. 

Who is there who has not watched them 
with admiration ? " We first see her as an 
exquisite crescent of pale light in the western 
sky after sunset. Night after night she 
moves further and further to the east, until 
she becomes full, and rises about the same 
time that the Sun sets. From the time of 
full moon the disc of light begins to diminish, 
until the last quarter is reached. Then it is 
that the Moon is seen high in the heavens in 
the morning. As the days pass by, the cres- 
cent shape is again assumed. The crescent 
wanes thinner and thinner as the Moon draws 
closer to the Sun. Finally, she becomes lost 
in the overpowering light of the Sun, again 
to emerge as the new moon, and again to go 
through the same cycle of changes." l 

But although she is so small the Moon is 
not only, next to the Sun, by far the most 
beautiful, but also for us the most important, 
of the heavenly bodies. Her attraction, aided 
by that of the Sun, causes the tides, which 

1 Ball, Story of the Heavens. 


are of such essential service to navigation. 
They carry our vessels in and out of port, and, 
indeed, but for them many of our ports would 
themselves cease to exist, being silted up by 
the rivers running into them. The Moon is 
also of invaluable service to sailors by enabling 
them to determine where they are, and guid- 
ing them over the pathless waters. 

The geography of the Moon, so far as con- 
cerns the side turned towards us, has been 
carefully mapped and studied, and may almost 
be said to be as well known as that of our 
own earth. The scenery is in a high degree 
weird and rugged ; it is a great wilderness of 
extinct volcanoes, and, seen with even a very 
moderate telescope, is a most beautiful object. 
The mountains are of great size. Our loftiest 
mountain, Mount Everest, is generally stated 
as about 29,000 feet in height. The moun- 
tains of the Moon reach an altitude of over 
42,000, but this reckons to the lowest depres- 
sion, and it must be remembered that we 
reckon the height of mountains to the sea 
level only. Several of the craters on the 
Moon have a diameter of 40 or 50 one of 




them even as much as 78 miles. Many 
also have central cones, closely resembling 
those in our own volcanic regions. In some 
cases the craters are filled nearly to the brim 
with lava. The volcanoes seem, however, to 
be all extinct ; and there is not a single case 

Fig. 50. A group of Lunar Volcanoes. 

in which we have conclusive evidence of any 
change in a lunar mountain. 

The Moon, being so much smaller than the 
earth, cooled, of course, much more rapidly, 
and it is probable that these mountains are 
millions of years old much older than many 


of our mountain chains. Yet no one can look 
at a map of the Moon without being struck 
with the very rugged character of its moun- 
tain scenery. This is mainly due to the 
absence of air and water. To these two 
mighty agencies, not merely " the cloud- 
capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the 
solemn temples," but the very mountains 
themselves, are inevitable victims. Not 
merely storms and hurricanes, but every 
gentle shower, every fall of snow, tends to 
soften our scenery and lower the mountain 
peaks. These agencies are absent from the 
Moon, and the mountains stand to-day just 
as they were formed millions of years ago. 

But though we find on our own globe (see, 
for instance, Fig. 21) volcanic regions closely 
resembling those of the Moon, there are other 
phenomena on the Moon's surface for which 
our earth presents as yet no explanation. 
From Tycho, for instance, a crater 17,000 
feet high and 50 miles across, a number of 
rays or streaks diverge, which for hundreds, 
or in some cases two or three thousand, miles 
pass straight across plains, craters, and moun- 


tains. The true nature of these streaks is not 
yet understood. 


The Sun is more than 400 times as distant 
as the Moon ; a mighty glowing globe, in- 
finitely hotter than any earthly fiery furnace, 
300,000 times as heavy, and 1,000,000 times 
as large as the earth. Its diameter is 865,000 
miles, and it revolves on its axis in between 
25 and 26 days. Its distance is 92,500,000 
miles. And yet it is only a star, and by no 
means one of the first magnitude. 

The surface of the Sun is the seat of vio- 
lent storms and tempests. From it gigantic 
flames, consisting mainly of hydrogen, flicker 
and leap. Professor Young describes one as 
being, when first observed, 40,000 miles high. 
Suddenly it became very brilliant, and in 
half an hour sprang up 40,000 more. For 
another hour it soared higher and higher, 
reaching finally an elevation of no less than 
350,000 miles, after which it slowly faded 
away, and in a couple of hours had entirely 
disappeared. This was no doubt an excep- 


tional case, but a height of 100,000 miles is 
not unusual, and the velocity frequently 
reaches 100 miles in a second. 

The proverbial spots on the Sun in many 
respects resemble the appearances which would 
be presented if a comparatively dark central 
mass was here and there exposed by apertures 
through the more brilliant outer gases, but 
their true nature is still a matter of discus- 

During total eclipses it is seen that the 
Sun is surrounded by a "corona," or aureola of 
light, consisting of radiant filaments, beams, 
and sheets of light, which radiate in all direc- 
tions, and the true nature of which is still 

Another stupendous problem connected 
with the Sun is the fact that, as geology 
teaches us, it has given off nearly the same 
quantity of light and heat for millions of 
years. How has this come to pass ? Certainly 
not by any process of burning such as we are 
familiar with. Indeed, if the heat of the Sun 
were due to combustion it would be burnt up 
in 6000 years. It has been suggested that 


the meteors, which fall in showers on to the 
Sun, replace the heat which is emitted. To 
some slight extent perhaps they do so, but the 
main cause seems to be the slow condensation 
of the Sun itself. Mathematicians tell us 
that a contraction of about 220 feet a year 
would account for the whole heat emitted, and 
as the present diameter of the Sun is about 
860,000 miles, the potential store of heat is 
still enormous. 

To the Sun we owe our light and heat ; it 
is not only the centre of our planetary system, 
it is the source and ruler of our lives. It 
draws up water from the ocean, and pours it 
down in rain to fill the rivers and refresh the 
plants ; it raises the winds, which purify the 
air and waft our ships over the seas ; it draws 
our carriages and drives our steam-engines, 
for coal is but the heat of former ages stored 
up for our use ; animals live and move by the 
Sun's warmth ; it inspires the song of birds, 
paints the flowers, and ripens the fruit. 
Through it the trees grow. For the beauties 
of nature, for our food and drink, for our 
clothing, for our light and life, for the very 


possibility of our existence, we are indebted 
to the Sun. 

What is the Sun made of ? Comte men- 
tioned as a problem, which it was impossible 
that man could ever solve, any attempt to 
determine the chemical composition of the 
heavenly bodies. " Nous concevons," he said, 
" la possibilite de determiner leurs formes, 
leurs distances, leurs grandeurs, et leurs mouve- 
ments, tandis que nous ne saurions jamais 
etudier par aucun moyen leur composition 
chimique ou leur structure mineralogique." 
To do so might well have seemed hopeless, 
and yet the possibility has been proved, and a 
beginning has been made. In the early part 
of this century Wollaston observed that the 
bright band of colours thrown by a prism, and 
known as the spectrum, was traversed by 
dark lines, which were also discovered, and 
described more in detail, by Fraunhofer, after 
whom they are generally called " Fraunhofer 's 
lines." The next step was made by Wheat- 
stone, who showed that the spectrum formed 
by incandescent vapours was formed of bright 
lines, which differed for each substance, and 



might, therefore, be -used as a convenient 
mode of analysis. In fact, by this process 
several new substances have actually been 
discovered. These bright lines were found 
on comparison to coincide with the dark lines 
in the spectrum, and to Kirchhoff: and Bunsen 
is due the credit of applying this method 
of research to astronomical science. They 
arranged their apparatus so that one-half was 
lighted by the Sun, the other by the incan- 
descent gas they were examining. When the 
vapour of sodium was treated in this way they 
found that the bright line in the flame of soda 
exactly coincided with a line in the Sun's 
spectrum. The conclusion was obvious ; there 
is sodium in the Sun. It must, indeed, have 
been a glorious moment when the thought 
flashed upon them ; and the discovery, with 
its results, is one of the greatest triumphs of 
human genius. 

The Sun has thus been proved to contain 
hydrogen, sodium, barium, magnesium, cal- 
cium, aluminium, chromium, iron, nickle, man- 
ganese, titanium, cobalt, lead, zinc, copper, 
cadmium, strontium, cerium, uranium, potas- 


slum, etc., in all 36 of our terrestrial ele- 
ments, while as regards some others the 
evidence is not conclusive. We cannot as 
yet say that any of our elements are absent, 
nor though there are various lines which can- 
not as yet be certainly referred to any known 
substance, have we clear proof that the Sun 
contains any element which does not exist on 
our earth. On the whole, then, the chemical 
composition of the Sun appears closely to 
resemble that of our earth. 


The Syrian shepherds watching their flocks 
by night long ago noticed and they were 
probably not the first that there were five 
stars which did not follow the regular course 
of the rest, but, apparently at least, moved 
about irregularly. These they appropriately 
named Planets, or wanderers. 

Further observations have shown that this ir- 
regularity of their path is only apparent, and 
that, like our own Earth, they really revolve 
round the Sun. To the five first observed 


Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn 
two large ones, Uranus and Neptune, and a 
group of minor bodies, have since been added. 
The following two diagrams give the rela- 
tive orbits of the Planets. 


/Venus v> Mercury 


687 days 
Fig. 51. Orbits of the inner Planets. 


It is possible, perhaps probable, that there 
may be an inner Planet, but, so far as we 


know for certain, Mercury is the one nearest 
to the Sun, it's average distance being 
36,000,000 miles. It is much smaller than 
the Earth, its weight being only about 


Jupiter.^ ......... ^ 

/^ Mars ^ 

I Sun/ 
Fig. 52. Relative distances of the Planets from the Sun. 

of ours. Mercury is a shy though beautiful 
object, for being so near the Sun it is not 
easily visible ; it may, however, generally be 
seen at some time or other during the year as 
a morning or evening star. 



The true morning or evening star, however, 
is Venus the peerless and capricious Venus. 

Venus, perhaps, " has not been noticed, 
not been thought of, for many months. It is 
a beautifully clear evening ; the sun has just 
set. The lover of nature turns to admire the 
sunset, as every lover of nature will. In the 
golden glory of the west a beauteous gem is 
seen to glisten; it is the evening star, the 
planet Venus. A week or two later another 
beautiful sunset is seen, and now the planet 
is no longer a glistening point low down ; it 
has risen high above the horizon, and con- 
tinues a brilliant object long after the shades 
of night have descended. Again a little 
longer and Venus has gained its full brilliancy 
and splendour. All the heavenly host even 
Sirius and Jupiter must pale before the 
splendid lustre of Venus, the unrivalled queen 
of the firmament." l 

Venus is about as large as our Earth, and 
when at her brightest outshines about fifty 

1 Ball, Story of the Heavens. 


times the most brilliant star. Yet, like all 
the other planets, she glows only with the 
reflected light of the Sun, and consequently 
passes through phases like those of the Moon, 
though we cannot see them with the naked 
eye. To Yen us also owe we mainly the power 
of determining the distance, and consequently 
the magnitude, of the Sun. 


Our own Earth has formed the subject of 
previous chapters. I will now, therefore, only 
call attention to her movements, in which, of 
course, though unconsciously, we participate. 
In the first place, the Earth revolves on her 
axis in 24 hours. Her circumference at the 
tropics is 24,000 miles. Hence a person at the 
tropics is moving in this respect at the rate of 
1000 miles an hour, or over 16 miles a 

But more than this, astronomers have 
ascertained that the whole solar system is 
engaged in a great voyage through space, 
moving towards a point on the constellation 


of Hercules at the rate of at least 20,000 
miles an hour, or over 300 miles a minute. 1 

But even more again, we revolve annually 
round the Sun in a mighty orbit 580,000,000 
miles in circumference. In this respect we 
are moving at the rate of no less than 60,000 
miles an hour, or 1000 miles a minute a 
rate far exceeding of course, in fact by some 
100 times, that of a cannon ball. 

How few of us know, how little we any of 
us realise, that we are rushing through space 
with such enormous velocity. 


To the naked eye Mars appears like a 
ruddy star of the first magnitude. It has 
two satellites, which have been happily named 
Phobos and Deimos Fear and Dismay. It 
is little more than half as large as the Earth, 
and, though generally far more distant, it 
sometimes approaches us within 35,000,000 
miles. This has enabled us to study its 
physical structure. It seems very probable 

1 Some authorities estimate it even higher. 


that there is water in Mars, and the two poles 
are tipped with white, as if capped by ice and 
snow. It presents also a series of remarkable 
parallel lines, the true nature of which is not 
yet understood. 


A glance at Figs. 51 and 52 will show that 
the distances of the Planets from the Sun 
follow a certain rule. 

If we take the numbers 0, 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 
96, each one (after the second) the double of 
that preceding, and add four, we have the 

4 7 10 16 28 52 100 

Now the distances of the Planets from the 
Sun are as follow : 

Mercury. Venus. Earth. Mars. Jupiter. Saturn. 

3.9 7.2 10 15.2 52.9 95.4 

For this sequence, which was first noticed 
by Bode, and is known as Bode's law, no 
explanation can yet be given. It was of 
course at once observed that between Mars 
and Jupiter one place is vacant, and it has 


now been ascertained that this is occupied by 
a zone of Minor Planets, the first of which 
was discovered by Piazzi on January 1, 1801, 
a worthy prelude to the succession of scientific 
discoveries which form the glory of our cen- 
tury. At present over 300 are known, but 
certainly these are merely the larger among 
an immense number, some of them doubtless 
mere dust. 


Beyond the Minor Planets we come to the 
stupendous Jupiter, containing 300 times the 
mass, and being 1200 times the size of our 
Earth larger indeed than all the other 
planets put together. It is probably not 
solid, and from its great size still retains a 
large portion of the original heat, if we may 
use such an expression. Jupiter usually 
shows a number of belts, supposed to be due 
to clouds floating over the surface, which have 
a tendency to arrange themselves in belts or 
bands, owing to the rotation of the planet. 
Jupiter has four moons or satellites. 




Next to Jupiter in size, as in position, 
comes Saturn, which, though far inferior in 
dimensions, is much superior in beauty. To 
the naked eye Saturn appears as a brilliant 
star, but when Galileo first saw it through a 
telescope it appeared to him to be composed 
of three bodies in a line, a central globe with 
a small one on each side. Huyghens in 1655 

Fig. 53. Saturn. 

first showed that in reality Saturn was sur- 
rounded by a series of rings (see Fig. 53). 
Of these there are three, the inner one very 
faint, and the outer one divided into two by 
a dark line. These rings are really enormous 
shoals of minute bodies revolving round the 
planet, and rendering it perhaps the most 


marvellous and beautiful of all the heavenly 

While we have one Moon, Mars two, arid 
Jupiter four, Saturn has no less than eight 


Saturn was long supposed to be the outer- 
most body belonging to the solar system. 
In 1781, however, on the 13th March, 
William Herschel was examining the stars 
in the constellation of the Twins. One struck 
him because it presented a distinct disc, while 
the true fixed stars, however brilliant, are, 
even with the most powerful telescope, mere 
points of light-. At first he thought it might 
be a comet, but careful observations showed 
that it was really a new planet. Though 
thus discovered by Herschel it had often 
been seen before, but its true nature was 
unsuspected. It has a diameter of about 
31,700 miles. 

Four satellites of Uranus have been dis- 
covered, and they present the remarkable 
peculiarity that while all the other planets 


and their satellites revolve nearly in one 
plane, the satellites of Uranus are nearly at 
right angles, indicating the presence of some 
local and exceptional influence. 


The study of Uranus soon showed that it 
followed a path which could not be accounted 
for by the influence of the Sun and the other 
then known planets. It was suspected, there- 
fore, that this was due to some other body 
not yet discovered. To calculate where 
such a body must be so as to account for 
these irregularities was a most complex and 
difficult, and might have seemed almost a 
hopeless, task. It was, however, solved al- 
most simultaneously and independently by 
Adams in this country, and Le Verrier in 

Neptune, so far as we yet know the out- 
most of our companions, is 35,000 miles in 
diameter, and its mean distance from the Sun 
is 2,780,000,000 miles. 



The theory of the origin of the Planetary 
System known as the " Nebular Hypothesis/' 
which was first suggested by Kant, and de- 
veloped by Herschel arid Laplace, may be 
fairly said to have attained a high degree of 
probability. The space now occupied by the 
solar system is supposed to have been filled 
by a rotating spheroid of extreme tenuity 
and enormous heat, due perhaps to the col- 
lision of two originally separate bodies. The 
heat, however, having by degrees radiated 
into space, the gas cooled and contracted 
towards a centre, destined to become the Sun. 
Through the action of centrifugal force the 
gaseous matter also flattened itself at the 
two poles, taking somewhat the form of a 
disc. For a certain time the tendency to 
contract, and the centrifugal force, counter- 
balanced one another, but at length a time 
came when the latter prevailed and the outer 
zone detached itself from the rest of the 
sphere. One after another similar rings were 
thrown off, and then breaking up, formed the 
planets and their satellites. 


That each planet and satellite did form 
originally a ring we still have evidence in the 
wonderful and beautiful rings of Saturn, 
which, however, in all probability will eventu- 
ally form spherical satellites like the rest. 
Thus then our Earth was originally a part 
of the Sun, to which again it is destined one 
day to return. M. Plateau has shown experi- 
mentally that by rotating a globe of oil in a 
mixture of water and spirit having the same 
density this process may be actually repeated 
in miniature. 

This brilliant, and yet simple, hypothesis 
is consistent with, and explains many other 
circumstances connected with the position, 
magnitude, and movements of the Planets 
and their satellites. 

The Planets, for instance, lie more or less 
in the same plane, they revolve round the 
Sun and rotate on their own axis in the same 
direction a series of coincidences which can- 
not be accidental, and for which the theory 
would account. Again the rate of cooling 
would of course follow the size ; a small body 
cools more rapidly than a large one. The 


Moon is cold and rigid; the Earth is solid at 
the surface, but intensely hot within ; Jupiter 
and Saturn, which are immensely larger, still 
retain much of their original heat, and have 
a much lower density than the Earth; and 
astronomers tell us on other grounds that the 
Sun itself is still contracting, and that to this 
the maintenance of its temperature is due. 

Although, therefore, the Nebular Theory 
cannot be said to have been absolutely proved, 
it has certainly been brought to a high state 
of probability, and is, in its main features, 
generally accepted by astronomers. 

The question has often been asked whether 
any of the heavenly bodies are inhabited, and 
as yet it is impossible to give any certain 
answer. It seems a priori probable that the 
millions of suns which we see as stars must 
have satellites, and that some at least of them 
may be inhabited. So far as our own system 
is concerned the Sun is of course too hot to 
serve as a dwelling-place for any beings with 
bodies such as ours. The same may be said 
of Mercury, which is at times probably ten 
times as hot as our tropics. The outer planets 


appear to be still in a state of vapour. The 
Moon has no air or water. 

Mars is in a condition which most nearly 
resembles ours. All, however, that can be 
said is that, so far as we can see, the exis- 
tence of living beings on Mars is not impos- 


The Sun, Moon, and Stars, glorious and 
wonderful as they are, though regarded with 
great interest, and in some cases worshipped 
as deities, excited the imagination of our 
ancestors less than might have been expected, 
and even now attract comparatively little 
attention, from the fact that they are always 
with us. Comets, on the other hand, both as 
rare and occasional visitors, from their large 
size and rapid changes, were regarded in 
ancient times with dread and with amaze- 

Some Comets revolve round the Sun in 
ellipses, but many, if not the majority, are 
visitors indeed, for having once passed round 



the Sun they pass away again into space, 
never to return. 

The appearance which is generally regarded 
as characteristic of a Comet is that of a 
head with a central nucleus and a long tail. 
Many, however, of the smaller ones possess 
no tail, and in fact Comets present almost 
innumerable differences. Moreover the same 
Comet changes rapidly, so that when they 
return, they are identified not in any way by 
their appearance, but by the path they 

Comets may almost be regarded as the 
ghosts of heavenly bodies. The heads, in 
some cases, may consist of separate solid 
fragments, though on this astronomers are 
by no means agreed, but the tails at any rate 
are in fact of almost inconceivable tenuity. 
We know that a cloud a few hundred feet 
thick is sufficient to hide, not only the stars, 
but even the Sun himself. A Comet is 
thousands of miles in thickness, and yet even 
extremely minute stars can be seen through 
it with no appreciable diminution of bright- 
ness. This extreme tenuity of comets is 


moreover shown by their small weight. 
Enormous as they are I remember Sir G. 
Airy saying that there was probably more 
matter in a cricket ball than there is in a 
comet. No one, however, now doubts that 
the weight must be measured in tons ; but 
it is so small, in relation to the size, as to 
be practically inappreciable. If indeed they 
were comparable in mass even to the planets, 
we should long ago have perished. The 
security of our system is due to the fact that 
the planets revolve round the Sun in one 
direction, almost in circles, and very nearly 
in the same plane. Comets, however, enter 
our system in all directions, and at all angles ; 
they are so numerous that, as Kepler said, 
there are probably more Comets in the sky 
than there are fishes in the sea, and but for 
their extreme tenuity they would long ago 
have driven us into the Sun. 

When they first come in sight Comets 
have generally no tail ; it grows as they 
approach the Sun, from which it always 
points away. It is no mere optical illusion ; 
but while the Comet as a whole is attracted 


by the Sun, the tail, how or why we know 
not, is repelled. When once driven off, more- 
over, the attraction of the Comet is not suf- 
ficient to recall it, and hence perhaps so many 
Comets have now no tails. 

Donati's Comet, the great Comet of 1858, 
was first noticed on the 2d June as a faint 
nebulous spot. For three months it remained 
quite inconspicuous, and even at the end of 
August was scarcely visible to the naked eye. 
In September it grew rapidly, and by the 
middle of October the tail extended no less 
than 40 degrees, after which it gradually 

Faint as is the light emitted by Comets, 
it is yet their own, and spectrum analysis has 
detected the presence in them of carbon, 
hydrogen, nitrogen, sodium, and probably of 

Comets then remain as wonderful, and 
almost as mysterious, as ever, but we need no 
longer regard " a comet as a sign of impend- 
ing calamity ; we may rather look upon it as 
an interesting and a beautiful visitor, which 
comes to please us and to instruct us, but 


never to threaten or to destroy." 1 We are 
free, therefore, to admire them in peace, and 
beautiful, indeed, they are. 

"The most wonderful sight I remember," 
says Hamerton, "as an effect of calm, was 
the inversion of Donati's Comet, in the year 
1858, during the nights when it was suffi- 
ciently near the horizon to approach the rugged 
outline of G-raiganunie, and be reflected 
beneath it in Loch Awe. In the sky was an 
enormous aigrette of diamond fire, in the 
water a second aigrette, scarcely less splendid, 
with its brilliant point directed upwards, and 
its broad, shadowy extremity ending indefi- 
nitely in the deep. To be out on the lake 
alone, in a tiny boat, and let it rest motionless 
on the glassy water, with that incomparable 
spectacle before one, was an experience to be 
remembered through a lifetime. I have seen 
many a glorious sight since that now distant 
year, but nothing to equal it in the association 
of solemnity with splendour." 2 

1 Ball. 2 Hamerton, La ndscape. 



On almost any bright night, if we watch a 
short time some star will suddenly seem to 
drop from its place, and, after a short plunge, 
to disappear. This appearance is, however, 
partly illusory. While true stars are immense 
bodies at an enormous distance, Shooting Stars 
are very small, perhaps not larger than a pav- 
ing stone, and are not visible until they come 
within the limits of our atmosphere, by the 
friction with which they are set on fire and 
dissipated. They are much more numerous on 
some nights than others. From the 9th to 
the llth August we pass through one cluster 
which is known as the Perseids ; and on the 
13th and 14th November a still greater group 
called by astronomers the Leonids. The 
Leonids revolve round the Sun in a period of 
33 years, and in an elliptic orbit, one focus of 
which is about at the same distance from the 
Sun as we are, the other at about that of 
Uranus. The shoal of stars is enormous ; its 
diameter cannot be less than 100,000 miles, 
and its length many hundreds of thousands. 


There are, indeed, stragglers scattered over the 
whole orbit, with some of which we come in 
contact every year, but we pass through the 
main body three times in a century last in 
1866 capturing millions on each occasion. 
One of these has been graphically described 
by Humboldt : 

" From half after two in the morning the 
most extraordinary luminary meteors were 
seen in the direction of the east. M. Bonp- 
land, who had risen to enjoy the freshness of 
the air, perceived them first. Thousands of 
bodies and falling stars succeeded each other 
during the space of four hours. Their direc- 
tion was very regular from north to south. 
They filled a space in the sky extending from 
due east 30 to north and south. In an ampli- 
tude of 60 the meteors were seen to rise 
above the horizon at east-north-east, and at 
east, to describe arcs more or less extended, 
and to fall towards the south, after having 
followed the direction of the meridian. Some 
of them attained a height of 40, and all ex- 
ceeded 25 or 30. No trace of clouds was to 
be seen. M. Bonpland states that, from the 


first appearance of the phenomenon, there was 
not in the firmament a space equal in extent 
to three diameters of the moon which was not 
filled every instant with bolides and falling 
stars. The first were fewer in number, but 
as they were of different sizes it was impos- 
sible to fix the limit between these two classes 
of phenomena. All these meteors left lumi- 
nous traces from five to ten degrees in length, 
as often happens in the equinoctial regions. 
The phosphorescence of these traces, or lumi- 
nous bands, lasted seven or eight seconds. 
Many of the falling stars had a very distinct 
nucleus, as large as the disc of Jupiter, from 
which darted sparks of vivid light. The 
bodies seemed to burst as by explosion ; but 
the largest, those from 1 to 1 15' in diameter, 
disappeared without scintillation, leaving be- 
hind them phosphorescent bands (trabes), 
exceeding in breadth fifteen or twenty min- 
utes. The light of these meteors was white, 
and not reddish, which must doubtless be 
attributed to the absence of vapour and the 
extreme transparency of the air." 

1 Humboldt, Travels. 


The past history of the Leonids, which Le 
Verrier has traced out with great probability, 
if not proved, is very interesting. They did 
not, he considers, approach the Sun until 
126 A.D., when, in their career through the 
heavens, they chanced to come near to Uranus. 
But for the influence of that planet they 
would have passed round the Sun, and then 
departed again for ever. By his attraction, 
however, their course was altered, and they 
will now continue to revolve round the 

There is a remarkable connection between 
star showers and comets, which, however, is 
not yet thoroughly understood. Several star 
showers follow paths which are also those of 
comets, and the conclusion appears almost 
irresistible that these comets are made up of 
Shooting Stars. 

We are told, indeed, that 150,000,000 of 
meteors, including only those visible with a 
moderate telescope, fall on the earth annually. 
At any rate, there can be no doubt that 
every year millions of them are captured by 
the earth, thus constituting an appreciable, 


and in the course of ages a constantly in- 
creasing, part of the solid substance of the 


We have been dealing in the earlier part of 
this chapter with figures and distances so 
enormous that it is quite impossible for us to 
realise them ; and yet we have still others to 
consider compared with which even the solar 
system is insignificant. 

In the first place, the number of the Stars is 
enormous. When we look at the sky at night 
they seem, indeed, almost innumerable ; so 
that, like the sands of the sea, the Stars of 
heaven have ever been used as effective sym- 
bols of number. The total number visible to 
the naked eye is, however, in reality only 
about 3000, while that shown by the tele- 
scope is about 100,000,000. Photography, 
however, has revealed to us the existence 
of others which no telescope can show. We 
cannot by looking long at the heavens see 
more than at first ; in fact, the first glance is 
the keenest. In photography, on the contrary, 


no light which falls on the plate, however 
faint, is lost ; it is taken in and stored up. 
In an hour the effect is 3600 times as great 
as in a second. By exposing the photographic 
plate, therefore, for some hours, and even on 
successive nights, the effect of the light is as 
it were accumulated, and stars are rendered 
visible, the light of which is too feeble to be 
shown by any telescope. 

The distances and magnitudes of the 
Stars are as astonishing as their numbers, 
Sirius, for instance, being about twenty times 
as heavy as the Sun itself, 50 times as 
bright, and no less than 1,000,000 times as 
far away ; while, though like other stars it 
seems to us stationary, it is in reality sweep- 
ing through the heavens at the rate of 1000 
miles a minute ; Maia, Electra, and Alcyone, 
three of the Pleiades, are considered to be 
respectively 400, 480, and 1000 times as bril- 
liant as the Sun, Canopus 2500 times, and 
Arcturus, incredible as it may seem, even 
8000 times, so that, in fact, the Sun is by 
no means one of the largest Stars. Even 
the minute Stars not separately visible to the 


naked eye, and the millions which make up 
the Milky Way, are considered to be on an 
average fully equal to the Sun in lustre. 

Arcturus is, so far as we know at present, 
the swiftest, brightest, and largest of all. Its 
speed is over 300 miles a second, it is said to 
be 8000 times as bright . as the Sun, and 80 
times as large, while its distance is so great 
that its light takes 200 years in reaching us. 

The distances of the heavenly bodies are 
ascertained by w r hat is known as " parallax." 
Suppose the ellipse (Fig. 54), marked Jan., 
Apr., July, Oct., represents the course of the 
Earth round the Sun, and that A B are two 
stars. If in January we look at the star A, 
we see it projected against the front of the 
sky marked 1. Three months later it would 
appear to be at 2, and thus as we move round 
our orbit the star itself appears to move in 
the ellipse 1, 2, 3, 4. The more distant star 
B also appears to move in a similar, but 
smaller, ellipse ; the difference arising from 
the greater distance. The size of the ellipse 
is inversely proportional to the distance, and 
hence as we know the magnitude of the 


earth's orbit we can calculate the distance of 
the star. The difficulty is that the apparent 
ellipses are so minute that it is in very few 
cases possible to measure them. 



Fig. 54. The Parallactic Ellipse. 

The distances of the Fixed Stars thus tested 
are found to be enormous, and indeed gener- 
ally incalculable ; so great that in most cases, 
whether we look at them from one end 
of our orbit or the other though the dif- 
ference of our position, corresponding to the 
points marked January and July in Fig. 54, 
is 185,000,000 miles no apparent change of 
position can be observed. In some, however, 
the parallax, though very minute, is yet ap- 


proximately measurable. The first star to 
which this test was applied with success was 
that known as 61 Cygni, which is thus shown 
to be no less than 40 billions of miles away 
from us many thousand times as far as we 
are from the Sun. The nearest of the Stars, 
so far as we yet know, is a Centauri, the dis- 
tance of which is about 25 billions of miles. 

The Pleiades are considered to be at a dis- 
tance of nearly 1500 billions of miles. 

As regards the chemical composition of the 
Stars, it is, moreover, obvious that the power- 
ful engine of investigation afforded us by the 
spectroscope is by no means confined to the 
substances which form part of our system. 
The incandescent body can thus be examined, 
no matter how great its distance, so long only 
as the light is strong enough. That this 
method was theoretically applicable to the 
light of the Stars is indeed obvious, but the 
practical difficulties are very great. Sirius, 
the brightest of all, is, in round numbers, a 
hundred millions of millions of miles from us ; 
and, though as bright as fifty of our suns, his 
light when it reaches us, after a journey of 


sixteen years, is at most one two-thousand- 
millionth part as bright. Nevertheless, as 
long ago as 1815 Fraunhofer recognised the 
fixed lines in the light of four of the Stars ; 
in 1863 Miller and Huggins in our own 
country, and Rutherford in America, suc- 
ceeded in determining the dark lines in the 
spectrum of some of the brighter Stars, thus 
showing that these beautiful and mysterious 
lights contain many of the material substances 
with which we are familiar. In Aldebaran, 
for instance, we may infer the presence of 
hydrogen, sodium, magnesium, iron, calcium, 
tellurium, antimony, bismuth, and mercury. 
As might have been expected, the composition 
of the Stars is not uniform, and it would 
appear that they may be arranged in a few 
well-marked classes, indicating differences of 
temperature, or perhaps of age. 

Thus we can make the Stars teach us their 
own composition with light, which started 
from its source years ago, in many cases long 
before we were born. 

Spectrum analysis has also thrown an un- 
expected light on the movements of the Stars. 


Ordinary observation, of course, is powerless 
to inform us whether they are moving towards 
or away from us. Spectrum analysis, how- 
ever, enables us to solve the problem, and 
we know that some are approaching, some 

Blue Red 

Fig. 55. Displacement of the hydrogen line in the spectrum of Rigel. 

If a star, say for instance Sirius, were 
motionless, or rather if it retained a constant 
distance from the earth, Fraunhofer's lines 
would occupy exactly the same position in 
the spectrum as they do in that of the Sun. 
On the contrary, if Sirius were approaching, 
the lines would be slightly shifted towards the 
blue, or if it were receding towards the red. 
Fig. 55 shows the displacement of the hydro- 
gen line in the spectrum of Rigel, due to the 
fact that it is receding from us at the rate of 
39 miles a second. The Sun affords us an 
excellent test of this theory. As it revolves 
on its axis one edge is always approaching 
and the other receding from us at a known 


rate, and observation shows that the lines 
given by the light of the two edges differ 
accordingly. So again as regards the Stars, 
we obtain a similar test derived from the 
Earth's movement. As we revolve in our 
orbit we approach or recede any given star, 
and our rate of motion being known we 
thus obtain a second test. The results thus 
examined have stood their ground satisfac- 
torily, and in Huggins' opinion may be relied 
on within about an English mile a second. 
The effect of this movement is, moreover, 
independent of the distance. A lateral mo- 
tion, say of 20 miles a second, which in a 
nearer object would appear to be a stupendous 
velocity, becomes in the Stars quite imper- 
ceptible. A motion of the same rapidity, on 
the other hand, towards or away from us, dis- 
places the dark lines equally, whatever the 
distance of the object may be. We may then 
affirm that Sirius, for instance, is receding 
from us at the rate of about 20 miles a second. 
Betelgeux, Rigel, Castor, Regulus, and others 
are also moving away ; while some Vega, 
Arcturus, and Pollux, for example are 



approaching us. By the same process it is 
shown that some groups of stars are only 
apparently in relation to one another. Thus 
in Charles' Wain some of the stars are 
approaching, others receding. 

I have already mentioned that Sirius, 
though it seems, like other stars, so stationary 
that we speak of them as "fixed," is really 
sweeping along at the rate of 1000 miles a 
minute. Even this enormous velocity is ex- 
ceeded in other cases. One, which is numbered 
as 1830 in Groombridge's Catalogue of the 
Stars., and is therefore known as " Groom- 
bridge's 1830," moves no less than 12,000 
miles a minute, and Arcturus 22,000 miles a 
minute, or 32,000,000 of miles a day ; and 
yet the distances of the Stars are so great that 
1000 years would make hardly any difference 
in the appearance of the heavens. 

Changes, however, there certainly would 
be. Even in the short time during which 
we have any observations, some are already 
on record. One of the most interesting is the 
fading of the 7th Pleiad, due, according to 
Ovid, to grief at the taking of Troy. Again, 


the " fiery Dogstar," as it used to be, is 
now, and has been for centuries, a clear 

The star known as Nova Cygni the "new 
star in the Constellation of the Swan" was 
first observed on the 24th November 1876 by 
Dr. Schmidt of Athens, who had examined 
that part of the heavens only four days before, 
and is sure that no such star was visible then. 
At its brightest it was a brilliant star of the 
third magnitude, but this only lasted for a 
few days ; in a week it had ceased to be a 
conspicuous object, and in a fortnight became 
invisible without a telescope. Its sudden 
splendour was probably due to a collision be- 
tween two bodies, and was probably little, if 
at all, less than that of the Sun itself. It is 
still a mystery how so great a conflagration 
can have diminished so rapidly. 

But though we speak of some stars as 
specially variable, they are no doubt all un- 
dergoing slow change. There was a time 
when they were not, and one will come when 
they will cease to shine. Each, indeed, has a 
life-history of its own. Some, doubtless, rep- 


resent now what others once were, and what 
many will some day become. 

For, in addition to the luminous heavenly 
bodies, we cannot doubt that there are count- 
less others invisible to us, some from their 
greater distance or smaller size, but others, 
doubtless, from their feebler light ; indeed, we 
know that there are many dark bodies which 
now emit no light, or comparatively little. 
Thus in the case of Procyon the existence of 
an invisible body is proved by the movement 
of the visible star. Again, I may refer to the 
curious phenomena presented by Algol, a 
bright star in the head of Medusa. The star 
shines without change for two days and thir- 
teen hours ; then in three hours and a half 
dwindles from a star of the second to one of 
the fourth magnitude ; and then, in another 
three and a half hours, reassumes its original 
brilliancy. These changes led astronomers to 
infer the presence of an opaque body, which 
intercepts at regular intervals a part of the 
light emitted by Algol ; and Vogel has now 
shown by the aid of the spectroscope that 
Algol does in fact revolve round a dark, and 


therefore invisible, companion. The spectro- 
scope, in fact, makes known to us the 
presence of many stars which no telescope 
could reveal. 

Thus the floor of heaven is not only 
" thick inlaid with patines of bright gold," 
but studded also with extinct stars, once prob- 
ably as brilliant as our own Sun, but now 
dead and cold, as Helmholtz tells us that our 
Sun itself will be some seventeen millions of 
years hence. 

Such dark bodies cannot of course be seen, 
and their existence, though we cannot doubt 
it, is a matter of calculation. In one case, 
however, the conclusion has received a most 
interesting confirmation. The movements of 
Sirius led mathematicians to conclude that it 
had also a mighty and massive neighbour, the 
relative position of which they calculated, 
though no such body had ever been seen. In 
February 1862. however, the Messrs. Alvan 
Clark of Cambridgeport were completing 
their 18-inch glass for the Chicago Observa- 
tory. " ' Why, father,' " exclaimed the younger 
Clark, " ' the star has a companion.' The 


father looked, and there was a faint star 
due east from the bright one, and distant 
about ten seconds. This was exactly the pre- 
dicted direction for that time, though the dis- 
coverers knew nothing of it. As the news 
went round the world many observers turned 
their attention to Sirius ; and it was then 
found that, though it had never before been 
noticed, the companion was really shown under 
favourable circumstances by any powerful 
telescope. It is, in fact, one-half of the size of 
Sirius, though only yoljToth ^ the bright- 


Stars are, we know, of different magni- 
tudes and different degrees of glory. They 
are also of different colours. Most, indeed, are 
white, but some reddish, some ruddy, some 
intensely red ; others, but fewer, green, blue, 
or violet. It is possible that the compara- 
tive rarity of these colours is due to the fact 
that our atmosphere especially absorbs green 
and blue, and it is remarkable that almost all 
of the green, blue, or violet stars are one of 
the pairs of a Double Star, and in every case 

1 Clarke, System of the Stars. 


the smaller one of the two, the larger being 
red, orange, or yellow. One of the most 
exquisite of these is /3 Cygni, a Double Star, 
the larger one being golden yellow, the smaller 
light blue. With a telescope the effect is very 
beautiful, but it must be magnificent if one 
could only see it from a lesser distance. 

Double Stars -occur in considerable numbers. 
In some cases indeed the relation may only be 
apparent, one being really far in front of the 
other. In very many cases, however, the 
association is real, and they revolve round 
one another. In some cases the period may 
extend to thousands of years ; for the distance 
which separates them is enormous, and, even 
when with a powerful telescope it is indi- 
cated only by a narrow dark line, amounts 
to hundreds of millions of miles. The Pole 
Star itself is double. Andromeda is triple, 
with perhaps a fourth dark and therefore 
invisible companion. These dark bodies have 
a special interest, since it is impossible not 
to ask ourselves whether some at any rate 
of them may not be inhabited. In e Lyrse 
there are two, each again being itself double. 


f Cancri, and probably also 9 Orionis, consist 
of six stars, and from such a group we pass 
on to Star Clusters in which the number is 
very considerable. The cluster in Hercules 
consists of from 1000 to 4000. A stellar 
swarm in the Southern Cross contains several 
hundred stars of various colours, red, green, 
greenish blue, and blue closely thronged to- 
gether, so that they have been compared to a 
" superb piece of fancy jewellery." l 

The cluster in the Sword Handle of Per- 
seus contains innumerable stars, many doubt- 
less as brilliant as our Sun. We ourselves 
probably form a part of such a cluster. The 
Milky Way itself, as we know r , entirely sur- 
rounds us ; it is evident, therefore, that the 
Sun, and of course we ourselves, actually lie 
in it. It is, therefore, a Star Cluster, one of 
countless numbers, and containing our Sun 
as a single unit. 

It has as yet been found impossible to 
determine even approximately the distance 
of these Star Clusters. 

1 Kosmos. 



From Stars we pass insensibly to Nebulae, 
which, are so far away that their distance 
is at present quite immeasurable. All that 
we can do is to fix a minimum, and this 
is so great that it is useless to express it 
in miles. Astronomers, therefore, take the 
velocity of light as a unit. It travels at the 
rate of 180,000 miles a second, and even at 
this enormous velocity it must have taken 
hundreds of years to reach us, so that we see 
them not as they now are but as they were 
hundreds of years ago. 

It is no wonder, therefore, that in many of 
these clusters it is impossible to distinguish 
the separate stars of which they are composed. 
As, howevjer, our telescopes are improved, 
more and more clusters are being resolved. 
Photography also comes to our aid, and, as 
already mentioned, by long exposure stars can 
be made visible which are quite imperceptible 
to the eye, even with aid of the most powerful 

Spectrum analysis also seems to show that 


such a nebula as that in Andromeda, which 
with our most powerful instruments appears 
only as a mere cloud, is really a vast cluster 
of stellar points. 

This, however, by no means applies to all 
the nebulas. The spectrum of a star is a 
bright band of colour crossed by dark lines ; 
that of a gaseous nebula consists of bright 
lines. This test has been made use of, and 
indicates that some of the nebulae are really 
immense masses of incandescent and very 
attenuated gas ; very possibly, however, in a 
condition of which we have no experience, and 
arranged in discs, bands, rings, chains, wisps, 
knots, rays, curves, ovals, spirals, loops, 
wreaths, fans, brushes, sprays, lace, waves, 
and clouds. Huggins has shown that many 
of them are really stupendous masses of 
glowing gas, especially of hydrogen, and 
perhaps of nitrogen, while the spectrum also 
shows other lines which perhaps may indicate 
some of the elements which, so far as our 
Earth is concerned, appear to be missing 
between hydrogen and lithium. Many of 
the nebulae are exquisitely beautiful, and 
their colour very varied. 


In some cases, moreover, nebulae seem to 
be gradually condensing into groups of stars, 
and in many cases it is difficult to say whether 
we should consider a given group as a cluster 
of stars surrounded by nebulous matter or a 
gaseous nebula condensed here and there into 

" Besides the single Sun," says Proctor, 
" the universe contains groups and systems 
and streams of primary suns ; there are 
galaxies of minor orbs; there are clustering 
stellar aggregations showing every variety of 
richness, of figure, and of distribution ; there 
are all the various forms of star cloudlets, 
resolvable and irresolvable, circular, elliptical, 
and spiral ; and lastly, there are irregular 
masses of luminous gas clinging in fantastic 
convolutions around stars and star systems. 
Nor is it unsafe to assert that other forms 
and varieties of structure will yet be dis- 
covered, or that hundreds more exist which 
we may never hope to recognise." 

Nor is it only as regards the magnitude 
and distances of the heavenly bodies that we 
are lost in amazement and admiration. The 


lapse of time is a grander element in Astron- 
omy even than in Geology, and dates back 
long before Geology begins. We must figure 
to ourselves a time when the solid matter 
which now composes our Earth was part of 
a continuous and intensely heated gaseous 
body, which extended from the centre of the 
Sun to beyond the orbit of Neptune, and 
had, therefore, a diameter of more than 
6,000,000,000 miles. 

As this slowly contracted, Neptune was 
detached, first perhaps as a ring, and then as a 
spherical body. Ages after this Uranus broke 

Then after another incalculable period 
Saturn followed suit, and here the tendencies 
to coherence and disruption were so evenly 
balanced that to this day a portion circulates 
as rings round the main body instead of being 
broken up into satellites. Again after succes- 
sive intervals Jupiter, Mars, the Asteroids, 
the Earth, Venus, and Mercury all passed 
through the same marvellous phases. The 
time which these changes would have re- 
quired must have been incalculable, and they 


all of course preceded, and preceded again 
by another incalculable period, the very com- 
mencement of that geological history which 
itself indicates a lapse of time greater than 
human imagination can realise. 

Thus, then, however far we penetrate in 
time or in space, we find ourselves surrounded 
by mystery. Just as in time we can form no 
idea of a commencement, no anticipation of 
an end, so space also extends around us, 
boundless in all directions. Our little Earth 
revolves round the mighty Sun ; the Sun 
itself and the whole solar system are moving 
with inconceivable velocity towards a point 
in the constellation of Hercules ; together 
with all the nearer stars it forms a cluster 
in the heavens, which appears to our eyes as 
the Milky Way ; while outside our star cluster 
again are innumerable others, which far trans- 
cend, alike in magnitude, in grandeur, and 
in distance, the feeble powers of our finite 


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