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ART. V.-The Scenery of England and the Causes to which it is
due. By the Right Hon. Lord AVEBURY, F.R.S., D.C.L. (Oxon.), LL.D. (Cantab. Dablin et Edin.), &c. London and New York: Macmillan & Co., 1902. HERE are mingled the pleasures of memory and the
1 pleasures of hope. For every one in South Britain with the least pretension to culture and patriotism the volume is replete with pictured scenes that will either recall the past or determine the future of delightful excursions. With a guide of refined taste, ample knowledge, and a long trained habit of scientific reflexion, travellers who kuow all the ground will see with new eyes each well-remembered landscape. Over an earlier sky for some of these spectators the heyday of youth and dear companionship may have spread a roseate glow, which finds no counterpart in diagrams and sections, or even in the best-executed photogravures. For this and similar losses many will unconsciously find compensation. They will easily glide into the conviction that the thoughts and lessons here set before them were present to their own minds when they themselves visited the mountains and plains, the sand dunes and estuaries, the rocks and rivers, the caverns and gorges, with which nature has sculptured and diversified this little island patch, this wave-bitten England. They may persuade themselves that it was principally for thinking those thoughts and reading those lessons that they devoted rare and scanty holidays to expensive and fatiguing journeys. Authors ought not to feel any sort of disgust with us when we their clients make these innocent assumptions of being self-taught. It is the secret of their popularity. They seem to do for us what Socrates thought could really be done if he supposed, as Plato would have us believe, that all knowledge is merely memory which needs to be awakened. Certainly the most popular scientific writers are those who so unravel the tangled skein of natural philosophy that the thread passes through our fingers as though it had never been knotted.
Not so very long ago geology was regarded as a rather dangerous, unsettling study for a young man to take up. Now it would be thought rather clownish for a man either young or old not to have some general acquaintance with its principles and conclusions. Among the latter there is none more convincingly proved than that the history of the globe and of our own island shows many an interchange of land
VOL. CXCVI. NO. CCCCI.
there, but into litorms, conlars, the sticience. Becoming
noe betwee from the sertion
and sea surfaces. The very things that have been taken as patterns and standards of the steadfast and unalterable have been shown to have no stability. It is the same throughout nature. The fixed stars owe their apparent fixity only to inconceivable distance, which makes our eyes incapable of appreciating their equally inconceivable rapidity of movement. By degrees all the educated world is becoming penetrated with the commonplaces of science. But while this is happening, the scholars, the students of the old learning, the bookworms, continue their researches not into nature, but into literature, with a result that is sometimes rather a shock to modern pride, though it may support the Socratic dictum that knowledge is recollection, and may help a scientific writer to persuade us in regard to any modern discovery that we knew it all the time. Lord Avebury begins his book by quoting from Ovid the geological doctrine of a continual interchange between sea and land, attested by the discovery of sea-shells far from the ocean. The quotation stops short of the less easily verified assertion that old-fashioned anchors have been found on mountain tops. It might, however, well have been continued for the sake of the two following lines, which forcibly illustrate a passage occurring later on in the present volume. According to this, Mackintosh, in his “Scenery of England and Wales, 1869,assumes throughout that the modelling of the surface of our island has been effected by the sea; and it is because it has, I think,' says Lord Avebury, 'been clearly proved ‘that it is mainly due to rain and rivers that I differ • from him so much as to the interpretation of the facts : 'the valleys are not mainly due to the sea, and the plains are ‘not generally marine, but river plains. Ovid, in the first century of the Christian era, it will be seen, agrees with this judgement of the twentieth century, since his verses evidently declare that smooth plains have been carved into valleys by the downflow of rivers, and that mountains have been brought to a low level by the downpour of rain.* But hundreds of years before Ovid, Herodotus bore his testimony to geological exchanges. He saw that islands were being gradually joined to continents. He appealed to 'shells • upon the mountains' as an evidence that what in his day
Et vetus inventa est in montibus ancora summis;
Metam. xv. 265-267.
was solid ground had once been under water. He made drafts upon time such as amazed his orthodox commentators down to a period not far distant from our own. What Herodotus perceived, or was taught to perceive, Egyptian priests had doubtless known long before Herodotus paid them his memorable visit.* To come down to more recent dates, Lord Avebury tells us that in 1605 Verstegan argued from the presence of the wolf in Britain that England must once have been united to the continent. He does not mention Niels Steensen, or Steno, whose memory has of late been revived with merited honour. To many both his name and his titles to renown may still be unknown. In 1669 this young and brilliant Danish anatomist published a
Prodromus' or preliminary pamphlet, in which, as Huxley and others have explained, he not only anticipated Cuvier in the logic of reconstructive anatomy, but discussed the value of fossil remains, as a testimony to repeated interchange of sea and land, in a manner worthy of a modern geologist.f In the middle of the eighteenth century our own poet Collins, in his Ode to Liberty,' gives expression to the idea that at least in Europe neither sea nor land had enjoyed any great fixity of tenure :
• Beyond the measure vast of thought,
The works the wizard Time has wrought,
The wild waves found another way.' A long array of seers argued for a stone age of human culture, for a remotely dated co-existence of man with animals now extinct, before the hierarchy of science would accept their conclusions.
On the other hand, not every random word of poet or essayist should be pressed into the service of scientific prophecy. For example, the fourth chapter of this volume is headed by a quotation from Childe Harold,' a passage contrasting the mutability of human affairs with the stead. fastness of the ocean, which the poet apostrophises as
• Unchangeable, save to thy wild waves' play ;
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow.
Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now.' * Book ii. chapters 10–12.
+ See 'Danmarks Stilling og Tilstand,' by H. J. Hansen, Ph.D., F.M Linn. Soc., p. 107, 1901.
This might be taken to imply a forecast by Byron of the extremely modern doctrine that the great ocean basins have been permanent from their first formation to the present time. It is, however, tolerably certain that Byron was only giving expression to the commonplace superficial opinion of his own and preceding ages, according to which great natural features, such as seas, mountains, and rivers, were all practically everlasting. Lord Avebury inclines to accept • the conclusion that while parts of the world have been sea . and then land, land and then sea, many times over, others
have remained permanently either ocean or continent.' This statement at the end of the volume rather conflicts with one at the beginning, that 'the continents are formed
mainly of materials which once formed the bottoms of seas • and lakes, intermixed with igneous matter forced up from
the fiery heart of the earth. Considering that a large part of the continents have a height' above the sea-level equal only to a twentieth part of the average depth of the ocean, the permanence of continents is a very different question from that of the permanence of oceans.
The American who sarcastically observed that our English climate did not supply anything that could properly be called weather, but only samples, might in like manner have contrasted the geology of England with that of regions in which the crust of the earth exhibits its components on a far more ample scale. The important results of alternating heat and cold, of wind and rain, and snow and ice, in moulding our scenery are fully discussed by Lord Avebury, but he lays comparatively little stress on the visual and mental effect produced by the quick changes of our protean atmosphere. He says truly in one place that 'the aspect of a
sea-coast in fine weather gives no adequate conception, or, * rather, gives a most misleading idea, of the power of the sea; during storms the waves afford, indeed, a majestic spectacle as they dash themselves against the shore :
several times a minute they charge the coast, and break • into foam and spray. But this single contrast is far from exhausting the subject. Not only in turbulent weather is the sea-scape round our islands full of changefulness. No day is so calm but that light airs will at times ripple the surface, passing clouds change the colour. Sometimes it will be blue, or green, or grey. Waves at a distance show as little lines of white. A far off rain-storm changes the horizon to indigo. A memory of yesterday's tempest embrowns a great band of water with the troubled sand from
below. Evening comes on, and while the sun is retiring to rest in tranquil majesty, with the courtier sky in raiment of green and purple and crimson and gold, for a few enchanted minutes every beholder is a poet. Late in the starlit darkness the wavelets will sometimes break on the shore bright with the phosphorescent light of innumerable minute organisms. Nor should the flight of sea-birds be forgotten, or their floating on the water, or their perching on the rocks, or their pitter-pattering on the shore, for all these are delightful incidents of our marine scenery. Still more might one not unduly claim, as incidents continually lending a touch of emotion to that scenery, the tanned sails of our fishing-boats, the bright canvas of our yachts, the smoke of outward-bound and home-returning steamers, and all the varied build and rigging of our mercantile and naval shipping, with which the prosperity and safety, the history and the future of our land are so intimately bound up.
There are those who find fault with the sea as cutting off the dwellers on its borders from half the circle available for walks and drives. It makes them many compensations. So, too, with respect to inland scenery our climate offers something in exchange for the points in its character which may be open to exception. Such epithets as fickle and treacherous are freely applied to it. The makers of almanacs have won an unenviable repute for being almost always wrong in their predictions about it. Scientific authorities have followed suit by pledging the faith of a Government office and of omniscient newspapers to prophecies frequently no better than those of the almanac-makers. If they could only manage to be always wrong, it would be nearly as good as being always right. But they offer forecasts covering large areas, while it is notorious that in England there may be a fair day in one part and a foul day in another part of even a small area. The fickleness of our weather cannot be denied. For, as we have good reason to be aware
· The Spring, she is a young maid
That does not know her mind,
Of most unrighteous kind ;'
• Not seldom clad in radiant vest
Deceitfully goes forth the morn,
Sinks smilingly forsworn.'