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though that skiil be occasionally a species of "black-art,” which is in principle antagonistic to the English manufacture. As to fashion, she is a fickle goddess, for there is every chance that what is not the mode may again become so.
There is, in fact, no adequate reason why we should not resume, and extend, the fair share that we once held in this beautiful branch of imperial industry. We have a climate all that can be desired, inore humid perhaps than any, we have machinery surpassed by none, and brain-power, and technical instruction, of science, and the arts, is slowly beginning to be felt.
There is one department beyond our powers, however, that of silkgrowing, or sericulture proper. It has been tried several times in England and Scotland, and in Ireland once, but without success, as might have been foretold, for nothing but failure can be expected in a country where the worms are hatched ere the leaves that constitute their food are ready. As for the subsequent operation of reeling, the price of female labour in silkproducing districts is too low to encourage the idea of carrying on this work in England.
But these failings need cause little regret, with India to depend upon as the nursery of our requirements, which owns the vastest silk-producing fauna in the world,—it is a very silken Paradise. India ours, no country is so rich in sericultural wealth as we, being in certain respects in advance even of China, which is restricted to a limited variety of moths. India, on the contrary, has her numerous species of Bombycidæ, both wild and domesticated, which are distinguished from all others by the circumstance of the larvæ that produce the silk feeding upon the leaves of the mulberrytree. She has besides her jungle broods of many sorts, which feed upon the leaves of trees and plants which grow wild in the jungles. One of the most widespread, and important, of these is the Tussur Moth. It is the one that is likely to do much towards building up once more the English industry.
Turning to the natural history side of the question, nothing could be more interesting than the actual production of the silk. The silk-moth has to pass through various phases, in the mysterious ordering of its life. It is born as an egg, and it changes to a larva, or caterpillar, or worm, as in this instance it is usually called. The third stage is the dormant chrysalis, or pupa ; and eventually from this form issues the perfect moth, in its turn to lay eggs, and to perpetuate the race. The general formation of all silk is the same; let us briefly follow the life-story of the Indian Tussur Moth (Antheræa Mylitta).
It is a handsome creature, and is distinguished by four remarkable naked spots on the wings, which are larger in the female than in the male, windowlike, and almost of the transparency of glass, and are surrounded by a purple circle,-being due to the absence of wing-scales, or dust-like particles, with which otherwise the whole wing is covered. From this circumstance, the insect is regarded as sacred by the natives, who believe the spots to resemble the chakra or d'iscus of the god Vishnu, or to have originated by the imprint of Vishnu's fingers. A few days after the insect's "exclusion," the moth lays her eggs, 50 to 100 in number, and then dies. In 8 to 12 days the young caterpillars are hatched. At first they are about 1 inch long, and in weight only the fifth of a grain. They are of a beautiful green colour, and marked with reddish spots, and a reddish-yellow band running lengthways. They make haste to feed, increase in size, and repeatedly cast their skin; in 40 to 45 days they have attained a length of from 4 to 7 inches, and they weigh about 370 grains. The end of the larval existence of the insect being reached, it makes ready for transition to the chrysalis, or all but lifeless pupa.
All silkworms have two stores of silk, one on either side of the alimentary canal, and two orifices for its ejection, situated below and on each side of the mouth. To protect and conceal itself during the momentous crisis that is approaching, the larva spins, or rather secretes, around it a few layers of silk, -a silken chamber, so to speak. A slender parallel filament is thrust simultaneously from each orifice, forming in fact a double thread, which on exposure to the atmosphere solidifies, and becomes silk. The caterpillar deposits it by sweeping its head from side to side, and as the matter exudes, the larva coats it with a somewhat yellow varnish, technically called gum. The quantity being thick enough to ensure privacy, the insect discharges some kind of cementing fluid, imparting the drab colour peculiar to Tussur silk. By a muscular action of its body, it causes the fluid to thoroughly permeate the fibres, and to harden the walls.
In this manner, depositing layer after layer of small loops of silk, and cementing them at intervals, the caterpillar continues until its stock of silk is exbausted, and the cocoon has become so hard that a sharp knife is required to cut it. Wonderful to say, this nest is suspended from a tree, by a long stout cordlike pedicle, which at its upper extremity closely clasps a twig or branch. Round the branch, for hundreds of times, the manufacturer carries its silken fluid, and thus at last a strong ring is formed. The seriposition is then prolonged into the pedicle, and to the end of this the cocoon is attached, the manner of suspending the structure reminding one of that of some fruits. The arrangement is amply justified, by reason of the worm's long life in pupa. Were the cocoons fastened to the leaves alone, like those of species whose chrysalis state is of short duration, they would fall with the leaves, and would be liable to injury. They resemble the shell of an egg, they are of an egg-shape, and their size is on an average it inches long with a diameter of 11 inches. It is these silken chambers, which in the case of the Bombyx mori, the ordinary silk-worm of commerce, have for generations and for centuries been wound off into thread, and have been transformed into fabrics of wonderful charm and variety in India and the further East.
As soon as the cocoon is complete, the caterpillar changes to pupa or chrysalis, and in this shroud it rests, until the time for its appearance as a perfect moth. This may be in a few weeks, or it may be delayed even for eight or nine months. No wonder the abode needs be firm and impenetrable, in view of such lengthened probation of the inmate, necessitating its weathering the hottest sun and occasional thunderstorms. As the emergence of the moth draws near, a moist spot is observed at one end of the cocoon. The pupa secretes an acid fluid, which has the effect of NEW SERIES, VOL. VI.
softening the cement, enabling the fast-coming insect, by aid of its legs and wing-spines,-it has neither teeth nor mouth proper to assist it,—to separate the fibres till the hole allows of its creeping out. Its wings have but to expand and dry, when it enters into its perfect state.
There is little doubt that Tussur Silk has been utilised in India from time immemorial, and it has been largely exported in a native-woven undyed cloth, in pieces of ten yards. It is now long since the attention of English naturalists in India was first drawn to its possible capabilities. But not until 1858 was its fitness perceived for better things than those that fell to its lot to accomplish in the East. But the West would have none of it. Even only fifteen years back, Europe regarded it with supreme contempt. With this “rubbish,” she said, nothing could be done. The manufacturers had given it trial, it had proved unworthy, and nothing should induce them to raise expectations which could never be realised.
The difficulties lay in the fact, that whereas the cocoon of B. mori is soft, and when macerated in water the silk is easily reeled off, and then easily dyed,—the hardness of the Tussur cocoon presents an obstacle to the reeling of a continuous thread, while the hindrances to dying the silk were deemed well-nigh invincible. The native reeling was excessively amiss; in the villages especially, the system employed was primitive. In fact, the rough and filthy state of the raw material as it came into this country, consequent on the skilless and uncleanly methods of its preparation for the markets by the native workers, not only furnished a silk of poor quality, but constituted one of the chief factors in its resistance to tinctorial matter. This want of adaptability of the silk also arises in great measure from its very nature. The fibre of B. mori is round and homo geneous, like a glass-rod, and it is without structure; thus it is readily dyed, since it takes the tinctorial matter with regularity; and it has a chemical affinity for dyes and tans of various sorts. The Tussur fibre, on the other hand, is more or less flat or tape-like, and moreover, fine as it appears, it is made up of a number of lesser fibres or fibrillæ, lying longitudinally, and united together by a hardened fluid. This structure is far less dye-absorbing than the other. The fibrillæ are extremely impervious, and they have a tendency to split, making the silk swell out when it is subjected to severe dyeing processes.
This property renders Tussur particularly difficult to dye black. The striking flatness of the fibre makes the task harder than it would otherwise be, because it compels an unequal diffusion of reflection of light. The natural lustre of the silk is thus seen in scintillations, unlike the mulberry-fed silk, which, being round, reflects the light in all directions, giving the Tussur a kind of speckly aspect, or producing little white sparks or glares of light from the angle of incidence on the flat surface. Obviously, the darker the dye, the more perceptible is this singularity; in pale shades of colours it is scarcely visible. This defect can of course never be improved, it is part and parcel of the silk. But shall we consider that a defect which is a distinguishing quality, one that has a charm all its own, and a variety, different to, but not impossible to appreciate, along with the satisfaction that we experience at the more monotonous order of the silk of commerce ?
The fawn tint too, common to Tussur,—so dissimilar to the golden and white cocoons of Mori,—the so-called resinous sheath, permitted the silk to take only certain very dark, not to say lugubrious, dyes, until a bleaching-agent was discovered, competent, and yet in action gentle enough, to extract what is only a dirty stain, and to get the silk sufficiently pale, to assume the warmest, the most delicate, and the most beautiful shades of colour,
Practically all the difficulties with respect to Tussur have now been overcome, lifting it out of the slough of obloquy in which it was immersed, rendering it in short a marketable commodity; an achievement thanks to the life-long devotion, and to the patient chemical and microscopic researches of Mr. Wardle. His services we cannot over-estimate, to India and to every Tussur-producing country, to England and everywhere else where Tussur is consumed. An immense impetus to its development has been afforded, among the French by the Paris Exhibition of 1878, and in England by the Exhibitions of 1886 and 1887; at all of which large and valuable collections of the utilizations of the silk were shown.
It is now time that the importance of the subject should be fully recognised, and that the former prejudice should fade away. The rubicon being passed, manufacturers begin to expend their utmost endeavours to find new openings for it, and to present it to advantage. Do not for a moment imagine it destined to replace the product of B, mori ; nothing discovered can ever hope to eclipse that. But there are a multitude of articles for which it is well adapted; for some things it is better suited than its more lovely fellow.
In a word, its day has arrived, and the question of supply becomes an important one. India, if she so choose, has a great future in store for her sericulture. But if India, and not China, who has shown itself quicker to respond to the call, is to be the reservoir of Europe, her industry must become as organised as the production of the mulberry-fed silks. Simple collection of the wild cocoons will not do; a systematic cultivation of the food-trees is required, attention to the systematic breeding and rearing of the insects, enforced application of proper reeling-apparatus, under European or other trained supervision, and care of all imperfect cocoons, and waste. This is a vast work, merely awaiting stimulus from us, and is possible over the whole, or nearly the whole, of that gigantic Continent. That the nucleus of this remarkable trade already exists in India is a most promising feature, since it obviates the ushering in of novelty, always distressing to a people more prone to adherence to old paths and ancient tradition, than to the putting on of new habits.
NOTE.—The Paris Exhibition of 1878 gave a great impetus to the Tussur silk industry. With the success achieved, chiefly through the persevering energy and application of Mr. T. Wardle, of the Hencroft Works, Leek, in the bleaching and dyeing of Tussur, the use of this silk has greatly increased, and there seems to be a great and growing demand for more material. China, more alive to demands than our lethargic Indian government, had risen to export 2,874,766 lb. in 1888, from 169,496 lb. exported in 1879. Lyons which in 1879 consumed only 7,420 lb. of Tussur, in 1890 consumed 673,534 lb. In the week ending with of April 1891, Lyons used 39,160 lb. of French, 39,040 of Tussur, and only 8,360 of Italian silk. The average prices of silk fibres stood in 1891 as follows per lb:- French silk 20/6; Italian Novi 18/6; do. Lombard 17/; British 17/; Japan best 16/6; do. ordinary 15/3 ; Bengal 14/6 ; China 14/; Canton u/;Indian Tussur 6/4; and China Tussur 4/2. The manufacture of Tussur silk is extending rapidly; and a greater variety of things is being made in it than most people are aware. Our readers will doubtless be glad to see a detailed list of its chief uses :
1. Sealcloth, plain, rayé and embossed, sealettes, Plush and other pile fabrics, for which the demand is great. Originally made from “waste,” it soon exhausted that material, and “waste” had to be made out of reeled silk worth from 45. to 55. a lb., which was thus reduced to the value of from is. to 2s., in order to be worked into a fabric, which from its extreme beauty and durability, commanded a price that still left a good profit.
2. Silk for Embroidery purposes, for use not only on Tussur itself, but also on various other materials, cotton velvets, etc;—chenille, chenille fringes; tassels, etc.
3. Tapestry cloths and curtain stuffs; brocades; brocatelles.
4. Art furnishing materials ; chenille table covers ; chair and sofa cloths ; etc.
8. Thuris cloths suitable for dresses, tea gowns, dust cloaks, shirts, under wear and linings.
9. Damasks, flowered damasks, and open-work dress damasks.
14. Embossing on other materials, with Tussur silk reduced to a powder, and producing a raised work of great lustre and beauty : it is a recent French invention.
We are indebted to the Journal of the Society of Arts, for most of what is given in this “note," and to Mr. Wardle for the illustrations. The specimen of Tussur silk we have procured from the poor “up-country” weavers in Bengal, whose benefit and improvement must go pari passu with that of a new branch of European industry and commerce. Tussur silk is not only being thus used by itself; but in combination with wool, cotton and the finer silk of the Bombyx Mori, it has entered on another phase of its varied utility. The question of an improvement and domestication of the Tussur worm, and of the probable results of its crossing with other species is too wide for treatment in this number of our Review.-ED.