Page images
PDF
EPUB

others continually, or expecting to be so. You have a sense in the presence of others; so that solitude and abstraction cannot be enjoyed, as it may be in country places.

Give me the mountain and the wide-spread moor,
Where freely blows the breath of heaven around;The hill, the vale, where singing birds allure,
And meadows sweet where buttercups abound.

A buoyant spirit and a grateful heart, however, will make even the desert to blossom as the rose, so that the parks of London are not likely to be undervalued.

THE BRITISH MUSEUM.

With the exception of St. Paul's Cathedral, perhaps no public building in London is more generally visited than the British Museum; and it might be difficult to find a place that has been more frequently described. It possesses two very great attractions: one, that it has much within it deserving attention; the other, that it may be seen for nothing.

As viewed from the spot where I am now standing, it has little in appearance to recommend it. Neither its guarded gateways, its square turrets, its front of dirty red brick, nor its old crazy cupola, is of an alluring character. Even in the short time it has occupied me to note down this remark, twenty-three persons have passed by the two sentinels who are on duty, with their bayonets fixed at the end of their muskets; and now a carriage has driven up to the gate. It is time for me to trudge across the street, and to enter the place myself.

Ay 1 this spacious quadrangle gives a different aspect to the building, and the fine flight of steps adds much to its general appearance. The French architect, Peter Puget, who designed the edifice, now rises in the estimation of the spectator. But the sarcophagus, covered with hieroglyphics, near the gateway, and the ancient canoe, formed apparently from a large tree, hollowed out by the chisel or by fire, draw the visitors aside, and claim for a season their attention.

At the foot of the flight of steps, surrounded by a slight enclosure, the gigantic head bones of two enormous creatures arrest the eye of the spectator. They are of a most astonishing size and form; and a stranger, until he reads the inscription beside them, wonders to what kind of animal they could belong. I have something to say on this subject, which is a little curious.

A few years ago, on passing over London Bridge, my attention was attracted by half a dozen bright yellow placard papers, pasted against a wall near the bridge. On these papers was printed the following wonderful announcement: "Wonderful Remains of an Enormous Head, eighteen feet in length, seven feet in breadth, and weighing seventeen hundred pounds. The complete bones of which were discovered, in excavating a passage for the purpose of a railway, at the depth of seventy-five feet from the surface of the ground, in Louisiana, and at a distance of one hundred and sixty miles from the sea. This great curiosity to be seen from ten in the morning till six in the evening."

In a very short time, I directed my hasty steps to the Cosmorama, in Regent street, where the enormous head was to be seen. There I gazed on the prodigy, and much did it excite my wonder. The proprietors were Frenchmen, and many were the dreams of imagination in which they indulged. It was thought the head might have belonged to a bird, for the beak-like formation of the projecting bones gave some colour to such a possibility; but then, had such a monster lived, kite-like, on other birds, he would speedily have depopulated a space equal to a whole parish, ay, a whole county, of its feathered tribes. It was suggested by one, that it might have belonged to a fish; but the circumstance of it being found so deep in the earth, and so far from the sea, threw a difficulty in the way of this suggestion. It was intimated by another, as no improbability, that it belonged to a reptile, a gigantic lizard; and to such a creature, supposing that he sustained himself by vegetation, shrubs and bushes must have been as grass, and young oaks and elms as a pleasant sort of asparagus. In short, from the conversation I had with these foreigners, it was clear that in their apprehension, the eagle might be but a lark, the whale but a minnow, and the mammoth but a mite, compared to the creatures that once inhabited the air, the ocean, and the

earth, in the ages that have long winged their way to eternity.

Well, I lost sight altogether of this "Enormous Head" for some years, and did not expect to see the like again, until one day, visiting this place, I saw the two heads now before me, one that of the spermaceti whale, (Physeter macrocephalus,) the other the skull and lower jaw of the northern whalebone whale, (Balcena mysticetus.)

The strong resemblance of the latter convinced me that the "Enormous Head" was nothing more than the head of a whale. •

I have entered my name in the book, kept in the hall for the purpose of receiving the signatures of visitors; given a glance at the gilded idol, and the mysterious impression made by his foot; ascended the staircase; paused a moment opposite the musk ox, polar bear, and gigantic fernsprays, and am now opposite the elephant and giraffes, sometimes regarding them with attention, and sometimes leaning my head backwards to admire the painted ceiling, whereon the fall of Phaeton, and the synod of heathen gods, are beautifully painted.

Youth, maturity, and age, all press forward to see the British Museum. There is a perfect throng now upon the staircase. Holiday and cheerfulness may be seen in almost every face. A pleasant sight it is to witness human happiness.

Here is a room crowded with curiosities, onco

« PreviousContinue »