Page images

constantly died in a short time after being touched."-(P. 481.)-And then the Doctor expresses his "surprise when" (says he) "we read of smolts caught" (it is not said how, but it matters not)," and after being, according to all accounts, rather roughly handled, and even mutilated by the amputation of a fin, replaced in water, and arriv. ing at mature years as a full grown salmon; we are, we repeat" (continues the Doctor), "left in wonder at the amazing contradictions between such observations and those we have personally made, observing every possible care." (P. 482.)

This passage only proves Dr Knox's awkwardness, or the deadly nature of his gripe; for no one point in the natural history of the salmon is better ascertained than that they survive the mutilation of a fin, and even live years with a ring round their body, close to the tail. Thus Mr William Stephen says in evidence, "we have marked fry going down, and have got them that season as grilses, and in the follow ing season we have got them as salmon."-Report, 1828. Mr George Hogarth marked a number of smolts in the month of May, by cutting off the mort fin; in the course of the month of June, several of these, grilses, were found without that fin; in this year (1825) there have been already got three salmon marked in the same way.-Report, 1825, p. 92. And Mr Murdoch Mackenzie marked a grilse kelt in the month of March, 1823, in the river Oykell, by tying a piece of wire round the body of the fish, immediately above the tail; and in March, 1824, the same fish was caught as a salmon in the same river. (Report, 1825.) But these experiments were made by the provoking people who have forestalled all the Doctor's discoveries, and anticipated him in every point of the salmon's history, and who are, therefore, on that very account, unworthy of belief.

A still more particular experiment is, however, related in the Highland Society Transactions, Vol. ii., by Mr Alexander Morrison. "In May, 1794" (says Mr Morrison), "I marked five smolts in the presence of five fishermen, and in such a manner, that if ever any

of them returned to the river, and were caught, no doubt could remain as to their being of the number so marked. Two of these smolts, then become grilses, I caught in six or seven weeks after they had been marked, when they weighed about 3 lbs. each. In the month of April, 1795, I caught another of the number, then a salmon, which weighed between 7 and 8 lbs. ; and in the month of August of the same year I caught a fourth, weighing 8 lbs.”—P. 391.

But in case the author of the paper may object, that all these experiments were made and related by men not known to the world as scientific, I shall add to their testimony that of an illustrious naturalist, Lacepede, who, in stating the curious fact of salmon ascending the particular rivers in which they were hatched, thus writes: "It is worthy of remark" (says he) "that salmon return every year to the place where they were spawned, as swallows return to the buildings where they formerly had their nests. The physician Deslandes bought twelve salmon at Chautelain, a small town upon our coast, near to which they capture to the amount of 4000 salmon per annum. He attached a ring of copper to the tail of these salmon, and then restored them to liberty. Five of these fishes were retaken the following year, three the second year, and three others in the third."-Lacep. Son. Buff. xii, 133.

The history of the salmon, as detailed in the evidence before Parlia ment, and by writers on natural history, may be told in a few words. Impelled by instinct to ascend the various rivers for the purpose of spawning, at a certain period of the year, they reach the remotest streamlets, where their ova may be deposited in safety, and the young, when hatched, find their food.

When this purpose

is accomplished, they return again to the sea. The same instinct guides the fry, when of a certain age, to fall down their native streams to the distant ocean, there to remain till the imperative call of nature for reproduction impels them to seek again the places of their birth. It is not ascertained satisfactorily whether salmon

From experiments now in progress by Mr Shaw, Dumfries-shire, he is led to believe that the salmon fry do not leave the rivers or descend to the sea in the year in which they are hatched. Mr Shaw is even inclined to believe that they remain two years in fresh water before descending to the ocean,

ever ascend rivers beyond the tideway for any other purpose than that of spawning. The practical inference to be drawn from such facts is, that the fishery of salmon should cease, and the animals be protected while spawning or seeking the spawning-bed. But as this period varies with the seasons, and the situation of the different rivers, and as, moreover, all the species do not come into full roe at the same time, the close time, so far as legislative enactments can do so, must be regulated by periods fixed arbitrarily on the knowledge of the general habits of the salmon, when the greatest numbers are observed to ascend the rivers, and the greatest number of spawned salmon and smolts descend to the sea. To prohibit the fishery in every month in which salmon are observed to ascend and descend, would narrow the period of fishery without perhaps any equivalent advantage. The general migration of the mass, it is evident, ought alone to regulate this close time; and there is full and satisfactory information as to these periods, in the evidence led before the Parliamentary Committee in 1824 and 1825. Protection in the rivers for the ascending fish, and till they have spawned and returned to the sea, is absolutely necessary to insure the deposition of a sufficient quantity of the spawn; and this protection secured, there is no fear of an abundant supply. The natural increase of the salmon, did not human ingenuity limit that increase by the destruction in every shape of the spawning fish that ascend the minutest streams, is quite equal to support the devastations which may be committed on their ova or fry by enemies in their own element. According to Mr George Little, there are in a salmon 17,000 ova, and in a grilse 10,500 at an average; and, according to Bose, 27,850 ova have been found in a salmon of 20 lbs. weight. Even the angler, under certain restrictions, would not be able materially to abridge the number of the young, produced, as they would be, if the spawning fish were protected, in myriads, and wafted to the ocean in shoals which might feed a whole people. It is only the wholesale destruction of the adult salmon, when ready to spawn, and when it ascends the rivers for this purpose, that obstructs the habitual fecundity of nature; and it is only the uncontrollable impulse of instinct, acting

against all opposition, that preserves the present supply. Were not the salmon one of the most prolific of fishes, its fishery on our coasts would soon cease to be of value.

As not at all connected with the subject of these observations, I pass over the uncalled-for attack upon Dr Paley, and our celebrated associate Sir Charles Bell, in page 499. I only remark, that, in Dr Knox's paper, the reader will in vain look for inferences, drawn from the circumstances detailed, of the wisdom and beneficence of that Great Being, who directs the migrations of fishes, and teaches them, with unerring aim, to deposit their ova where the young, when hatched, are sure to find a supply of food.

I have, I trust, satisfactorily demonstrated, that the food of the herring and salmon was known and described long before the appearance of Dr Knox's paper in the Transactions of this Society: That the food of the herring, in the first place, was well known and described by Neucrantz, by Leuwenhoek, by Müller, by Fabricius, by Bloch, and mentioned by Lacepede, by Bosc, Latreille, Pennant, Turton, Scoresby, MacCulloch, and many others-indeed by almost every person who has written upon the natural history of the herring. And that, in the second place, the food of the salmon, in rivers and in the sea, its periodical ascent of rivers for the purpose of depositing its spawn, the developement of the ova, and the descent of the fry to the sea, were all perfectly well known, in every particular, before the year 1833, is equally manifest, from the facts and authorities I have mentioned.

I trust I have not, in attempting to do justice to the claims of the illustrious men who have written upon this subject, and in my remarks on Dr Knox's paper, gone beyond the limits of fair criticism. I should be sorry, indeed, if I was considered to have failed in the courtesy due by one member of this Society to another. But there were statements which, in treating of the subject, I was bound to contradict-there were claims of discovery to be disproved by the statement of prior discoveries-and if the author of the Memoir has appeared to disadvantage in the comparison of rights, it was a situation of his own choosing.




There are countenances far more indecent than the naked form of the Medicean Venus.


How overpowering are the mingled murmur, clang, tramp, and rattle of a body of troops, with all their footsteps, horses, arms, artillery, and varied voices! How insignificant compared with this uproar the speech of a single mouth! Yet the whisper of one mouth sets in motion and drives on to death and devastation twenty such bodies, comprising, perhaps, a hundred thousand human lives.


It is trivial to say that geometrical truth means only consistency with hypothesis, unless we add, that the hypothesis is necessary and immutable.



Conceive an arch wanting only the keystone, and still supported by the centreing, without which it would fall into a planless heap. It is now held up merely by the supports beneath it. Add the keystone, and it will stand a thousand years, although every prop should be shattered or fall in dust. Now, it is idle to say that this change in the principle of the structure was accomplished by the mere addition of one more stone. The difference is not only that of increase, but also that of almost magical transmutation. stone before helped to hold up its neighbour, and each having its own prop, any one might have been removed without shaking the support of the others. Now, each is essential to the whole, which is sustained not from without but by an inward law. So is it with religion. It not only adds a new feeling and sanction to those previously existing in the mind, but unites them by a different kind of force, and one for the reception of which all the invisible frame was prepared and planned, though it may stand for years unfinished, upheld by outward and temporary appliances, and manifesting its want of the true bond and centre which it has not yet received.


How many ought to feel, enjoy, and understand poetry who are quite insensible to it! How many ought not to attempt to create it who waste themselves in the fruitless enterprise ! It must be a sickly fly that has no palate for honey. It must be a conceited one that tries to make it. 6.

There can be poetry in the writings of few men; but it ought to be in the hearts and lives of all.


Many have the talents which would make them poets if they had the genius. A few have the genius yet want the talent.


No man is so born a poet but that he needs to be regenerated into a poetic artist.


Luxurious and polished life, without a true sense for the beautiful, the good, and the great, is far more barren and sad to see than that of the ignorant and brutalized. Even as a mere wilderness would be less dreary to traverse than a succession of farms and gardens diligently and expensively cultivated to produce no crops but weeds.


There are minds, or seem to be such, which we can only compare to a noble cathedral of vast size, beautiful proportions, and covered with graceful ornaments. Nothing that art can supply to devotion appears wanting till we approach the great door and try to enter, when we find the seeming building only a solid rock outwardly carved into that appearance.


A botanist with a conscience will understand the saying, that no weeds grow on earth except in the heart of



A fierce polemic often pulls down the temple in order to build a fortified wall for the defence of its site against all profane invaders. What worse could they have done to it? But if he merely uses the sacred shields and

weapons, armoury of the invincible knights of old," hung in the sanctuary, for the purpose of defending it against destroyers, he does the God service who, as the Genius Loci, will surely fight beside him.


What is the one indispensable quality for a polemic controversialist? Not learning, nor talents, nor orthodoxy, nor zeal. But the Spirit of Love, which implies an anxiety to find good in all, and to believe it where we cannot find it. God admits into his courts no advocates hired to see but one side of a question.


We look with wonder at the spectacle which astronomy presents to us, of thousands of worlds and systems of worlds weaving together their harmonious movements into one great whole. But the view of the hearts of men furnished by history, considered as a combination of biographies, is immeasurably more awful and pathetic. Every water-drop of the millions in that dusky stream is a living heart, a world of worlds! How vast and strange, and sad and living a thing he only knows at all who has gained knowledge by labour, experience, and suffering; and he knows it not perfectly.


All the ordinary intercourse of life is big and warm with poetry. The history of a few weeks' residence in a circle of human beings is a domestic epic. Few friendships but yield in their developement and decay the stuff of a long tragedy. A summer day in the country is an actual idyll. And many a moment of common life sparkles and sings itself away in a light song; wounds as the poisoned barb of an epigram; or falls as a heavy mournful epitaph. But in all he who has an ear to catch the sound may find a continuous underflow of quiet melody, bursting sometimes into chorusses of triumph, sometimes into funereal chants. The reason why these archetypal poems of real life are so often unfit for the use of the poetic artist, is not their want of the true meaning of poetry, but their unsuitableness to the apprehension of any except the few, perhaps the one, immediately concerned. The poet must choose such a sequence of images as shall make the harmonious evolution

of events and the significance of human life intelligible and manifest to all, not merely to a few recluse or scattered doers and sufferers. 16.

What an image of the transitoriness and endless reproduction of things is presented by the gumcistus plant, covered to-day with fresh white flowers, while the earth around is strewn with those which similarly opened but yesterday. The plant, however, abides and lasts, although its flowers fall and perish.


Man is a substance clad in shadows. 18.

The firm foot is that which finds firm footing.


The weak falters although it be standing upon rock.



Sylburgius is a narrow fierce man; a kind of dark lanthern; a mass of iron blast, but still burning hot. With little vision or sense for the outward, and with but weak and scanty sympathies, he wants the awakening and suggesting influences of external beings, which might have given him a consciousness of Truths not immediately arising from his own character. there is no predominance of Reflection in his mind, he has not been led to expand and deduce to their full extent the principles he acknowledges. But with some power of insight he sees that there is a Truth to be believed, and with strong zeal he clings to and hugs it as all that he can trust in. Propose to him any thing as additional and supplementary to this, and he thinks it something which you would substitute for his own peculiar possession, and so would rob under pretence of enriching him. And herein is the essence of the man's individuality,namely, in his view of Truth as something which can be his property, and under his dominion, and therefore as limited, for so all property must be, and cut off from a larger field left open to be divided and possessed by others. He does not discern Truth as rather a Law, or Sovereign Constitution, to which we look up, than as areas of clay and sand which we may mete out and occupy; as the Law of the Land rather than the Land itself. Hence, in his maintenance of his Faith, there is all the tenacity, the self-assertion, the at

[blocks in formation]

A great truth sometimes sets the world in flames; and men afterwards commemorate the stoppage of the conflagration by some such dead monument as that which looks down on London, crowned with a dead brazen resemblance of the active living fire. But in another age the symbol may burst out again with the old life, and the brazen flames become real ones and kindle the land anew. Even the sepulchral images and signs of truth have a power to suggest and awaken the reality, so framed are men for truth, born into it as their element, vitally akin to it, and sensitive to the least rumour or stir of it. For the consciousness of truth is nothing else but the finding of one's self in one's world, and of one's world in one's self, and of God in all.


God, where the word expresses a mere tradition, custom, premise of a theory, or unknown power, is less than the least of realities; not so much as the African's lock of hair, or bunch of rags, which he calls his fetish; but rather the sound, shadow, or dream of this. When known, believed, loved, reverenced-vaster than the universe, nay, than man; more than the Infinite and Eternal, even the Author and Fount of these, and of the reasonable mind that knows them.


They who deride the name of God are the most unhappy of men, except

those who make a trade of honouring Him. And how many of the selfstyled, world-applauded holy are mere traffickers in the temple, setting so much present self-denial against so much future enjoyment!


God is the only voluntary Being to whom we cannot, without absurdity and self-contradiction, attribute aught arbitrary and self-willed. And, to doubt that we can know and compre hend the principles by which he acts, is to deny both that our reason is a gleam of his light, and that he has ever revealed himself to us at all. 27.

As a sublime statue manifests its maker's thought, so God's creation displays his mind. But conceive, that while the rude mass is shaped into the lineaments of a man, it grows more and more conscious of the advancing work, so that each new outward line and trait is accompanied by a new and livelier inward sense of the artist's design, and, consequently, of his character, and we have a faint image of the scheme which the history of the world unfolds.


We are, indeed, clay in the hands of the potter; but what a weight of new meaning, what a revolutionary transmutation, transorganization of the whole image arises, when we only add, in one word, that we are conscious clay. I may mould a plastic lump of earth or putty in my fingers for an hour, shaping it into a hundred forms, a cube, a ball, a crescent, a pyramid. At last the fancy seizes me to give it the semblance of a child: and, at the moment when I have rudely shaped the limbs, they begin to heave and glow with life; the lips breathe, the faint eyes open, and fix on me with a gaze of thought and emotion. I thrill with fearful joy and awe. Is the clay to me any longer a mass which I can mould and juggle at with pleasure? Alas! it is now a sacred, an immeasurable thing; itself a man; almost a god. Its sensations quiver on into my heart. I am no longer a potter-but a parent. 29.

There is one class of men in whom the higher powers of insight, love, and faith, appear to want a sufficient apparatus of the meaner faculties, the quick perception and sturdy boldness required for working in this world of

« PreviousContinue »