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NOTES & INCIDENTS.
PEOPLE have been almost frightened by recent reports upon the sun's condition. The announcement that his face had broken out into spots, which, in all, covered some three thousand millions of square miles of it, set the nervous wondering whether so seemingly stupendous an outburst did not portend some solar catastrophe which would be felt on the earth. Let all such be reassured : there is nothing very remarkable going on. Spots are always to be seen, great or small : they appear in maximum and minimum quantities in periods of about eleven years : just now we are at a maximum epoch, and there are some extra large ones; but we are by no means assured that the “spot-area" is greater than it has been for twenty years past, as one reputable authority has informed us. They who are scared by the enormous mileage forget the total area of the solar globe, which is about two and a half trillions of square miles : the spots now visible are to this total like three or four mustard seeds upon a large orange. Any untutored eye lately looking upon the whole disc through a telescope, would have merely said that there were a few black specks on it. As to cause for alarm there is none : indeed, it is not improbable that the periods of greatest spottiness, or, as they are termed, of“ maximum solar activity” are those when the day-god sends us his beneficent influences in greatest abundance. This idea so forcibly struck the elder Herschel, that he instituted a comparison between the quantity of spots and the price of wheat; and he thought he saw a relation between spot-plenitude and corn-plenitude ; while a great sun observer on the Continent has had reason to suspect that those years are most dry and fruitful when the spots are most abundant. We shall better be able to trace these apparent connexions when the solar portraits which they
take at the Kew Observatory have accumulated for a complete spotcycle : this will not be for several years yet. What the spots are, is rather too vast a question to be taken up in a note : we can only say for the present that they appear to be vast craters belching forth flames of burning gas. Imagine a fiery jet forty thousand miles high, and as many in diameter !
LET him who wants evidence of our national taste for music betake himself to any place where the working and lower classes have gathered in large bodies for holiday enjoyment. He will be struck, as I was, on Good Friday last, while passing through a London suburb crowded with excursionists, not merely with the attraction possessed by any musical
performance, however humble--not merely with the heartiness with which everybody who had a voice joined in whatever could be construed into a chorus—but with the irresistible desire, or the involuntary effort, manifested on the part of all executants to sing in harmony. Upon an unmusical ear these attempts make no impression ; but they force themselves upon one that has been tutored, even imperfectly, in that neglected department of musical cultivation, part-singing. The first performance that arrested my attention on the day in question was that of a number of ragged urchins shouting, to some people above them, “Chuck us a mouldy copper.” They made a chant of their appeal, and, whether by intention or accident it was impossible to say, one section of the choir sang all the while in tones that were a musical “third " below those of their brethren. Then, as I passed one gin-palace after another, the gaping windows yawned forth music-hall melodies of various periods, the choruses of which, taken up con molto spirito, were all sung in rude harmony; a number of voices taking what is familiarly known as the “ seconds," and a stentorian proportion maintaining a diapason bass which, however wildly it departed from the rules of counterpoint throughout the verse, was instinctively taken through the fifth to the key-note at the end. By-and-by I came upon a street preacher who had opened his service with a hymn, which, given out verse by verse, was sung to a familiar tune with a fulness of parts which would have put the milksoppy unison of our church hymn lispings to the blush ; and yet the preacher's congregation were such as probably never heard of singing classes or sol-fa societies. Wherever a melody is seized by a body of people, the desire to harmonise it is spontaneously generated. What a source of innocent pleasure would be opened to those who are most in need of it if this harmonious tendency were only cultivated. But how to do it? There is the rub. It could only be attempted in childhood, in the school; and, with the poorer youth, only in the charity or national school. Is it too much to expect that in any future scheme of universal education the heavier training may be leavened with a little exercise in harmony singing ?
The belief in charms and mystic cures, of which we have survivals in such remedies as that of a rub from a piece of stolen meat upon a wart to secure its disappearance, must have reached its culminating point when, three or four centuries ago, faith was placed in the" weapon salve” of Paracelsus, or Theophrastus, or whatever that arrant quack's real name may have been. Mr. Rodwell, the chemist who now and then enlightens his fellow philosophers upon the archæology of his science, has been unearthing some particulars of the energy that was wasted in upholding and downthrowing the belief in this unguent's efficacy. That it was a nostrum of the most worthless kind a child would now-a-days see : it was to be composed of moss from the skull of an unburied man, human blood, “the dried brain of a wilde bore," and mummy mixed with oil : and its virtue was that it caused the healing of any wound by being Vol. IV., N. S. 1870.
merely rubbed on the knife or weapon that made the wound, or even upon a fac-simile of the weapon. Before we laugh too loudly at this, let us remember a still common notion that a bite from a mad dog is rendered harmless by killing the animal. The weapon-salve had many staunch supporters among writers, and even physicians : but it seriously troubled the peace of mind of a churchman of Hedgeley, in Buckinghamshire, Foster by name, who believed the cure (if ever it was effectual) to be the work of the devil. He wrote a pamphlet, 56 pages long, entitled “Hoplocrisma Spongus; or a sponge to wipe away the Weapon-Salve," in which he was especially violent against a Doctor Fludd, who was a warm advocate of the specific. Evidently, Foster wanted Fludd to fight a paper war, but he could not draw him out : as a last taunt, he caused a copy of the title page of his book to be nailed to his reticent adversary's door-post. The move was successful : forthwith came a 212 page book from Fludd, sparkling with wisdom worthy of a better cause, and appositely entitled “The Squeezing of Parson Foster's Sponge, ordained by him for the wiping away of the Weapon-Salve.” Whether the doornailing compliment was returned we are not told : at all events, Foster appears to have been silenced, and the salve left to its own merits, which, no doubt, soon consigned it to oblivion. Yet the superstitious principle of it lived for many years in the "Sympathetic powder," which was used in the last century to cure wounds by being burnt on a piece of the rag that had bound them.
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper replies to our article on Illustrated journals :
“We have no objection to this honest criticism by The Gentleman's Magasine. That we do take, and reduce by photography (which, by the way, our illustrated contemporaries do not do), the most important pictures in foreign illustrated periodicals, is most true,' and we avow the fact by heading these pictures, *Spirit of the Illustrated European Press.' We take these pictures on the same principle that the European newspapers copy out from American newspapers such American intelligence and criticisms on current affairs as, it is supposed by them, may interest their readers, and vice versa. .... The only criticism which our monthly contemporary has made, to which we plead ourselves amenable, is that contained in the last sentence of our quotation. An honourable recognition of the sources whence our foreign pictures are drawn, is fairly due. After that is done, we shall be, by our contemporary's judgment, sans reproche.”
We think the American paper entitled to this reproduction of his fair and manly response. His acknowledgment of “the sources whence his foreign pictures are drawn” will be an advance in illustrated and general journalism on the other side the Atlantic which we shall hail with the liveliest satisfaction. There is an American paper which does us the honour to reprint one of our papers every month. A very small act would make this unobjectionable to us and honest on the part of our American brother. Let him in future quote The Gentleman's Magazine,
CORRESPONDENCE OF SYLVANUS URBAN.
AURORA POLARIS. MR. URBAN,—There is not much in Mr. Rowell's last letter to call for comment from me. On the long list of papers he has cited there is but one that especially concerns the subject under consideration : that one I have read, but it does not appear that anything beyond an opinion concerning the height of auroral arches is conveyed in it. The opinion is reiterated in Mr. Rowell's letter ; but it has no support beyond the criticism of a few old observations.
Without going at length into Professor Loomis’ numerical height determinations, the following verbal summary which he gives ought to be sufficient to refute the strange notion that the aurora has no altitude, or is an optical phenomenon presenting itself differently to different eyes :—“At the most southern stations, the aurora rose only a few degrees above the northern horizon; at more northern stations, the aurora rose higher in the heavens; at certain stations it just attained the zenith; at stations further north, the aurora covered the entire northern heavens, as well as a portion of the southern ; at places further north, the entire visible heavens, from the northern to the southern horizon, were overspread with the auroral light."
Mr. Rowell asks how I account for electrical effects on the telegraph wires from an auroral cloud forty-six miles high. I do not “account for ” it. The rash disposition to “account for” natural accordances and discordances is a scientific vice. Leave facts alone and they will account for themselves in time. At present the subject of terrestrial galvanic currents is too young to be theorized upon. Nor do I attempt an explanation of “the elevation of vapour, and its electricity to 500 miles in height.” Nothing is known about the atmosphere beyond five or six miles high ; what is stated thereupon is but inference. There may be an atmosphere all the way to the moon : the necessity for supposing such a thing has actually arisen in connexion with the phenomena attending solar eclipses,-I remain, ever faithfully,
THE KEILDER DISTRICT IN THE LAST CENTURY.
MR. URBAN,-In your columns some correspondence lately appeared with reference to the Keilder district, as depicted in Macaulay's “ History of England." The description given by Macaulay was derived from Sir
Walter Scott, and by him from the Duke of Northumberland, whose father had visited this outskirt of his dominions about the middle of the last century. I have before me a manuscript book of accounts, which gives some light on the social condition of the adjacent district of Liddesdale at the same period. At this point the Duke of Northumberland's possessions come in contact with those of his peer, the Duke of Buccleuch, one of whose tenants at that period was Robert Elliot, of Broadlee, Millburnholm, Erntage, and other places. Robert Elliot lived on the Scotch side, eight miles from Keilder, and his holdings extended to some thousands of acres. The manuscript in my possession gives his farming and household accounts for the years 1748 to 1755 ; and it gives no indication of barbarity, though it does indicate a great scarcity of cash. The words are Scotch, and the spelling is curious; but most of your readers will probably understand the quotations, without difficulty. The price of horses appears from an entry in 1753, where, among “ the goods and gear bought by me this year” there is “a mear and foll, at 51. gs. ;” and, the same year, “sold to a Mers-man (a Berwickshire man) a black mear, at 51. is." The average price of cattle will appear from the following :“From my good-father, a three-year old stott, 31. 35.” And, “ From Adam Beattie, Erntage, 2 stirks and a eild cow, at 42." Among the transactions in 1748, I find,“ Sold to Adam Slight 2 fat cows, at 21. nos. ; and “Bought from John Armstrong a four-year-old quey, at 21.” Again, “Bought from John Elliot, two stotts, at 61. 55. ; and he gave me sixpence again.” The “stotts” may have been good ; but the “luckpenny” was but small. Then, “Bought from Robert Hutton, at Hindhope, 2 stirks, at 2l. ;” and “Bought from James Laidlaw, in Rickerton Mill, a stirk of the good wife's at the mill, at il. 35.” The cattle of Scotland at that time were small and hardy, and generally black in colour. The prices of sheep were no better. In 1753, as I find from the manuscript, Robert Elliot bought 13 lams, 12 payable, at 35. 2d, a peace.” Thirteen to the dozen, and the whole lot for 38s., would be a windfall to purchasers of lambs in our day; but, again, Robert Elliot gets “ 57 lams at 25. 2}d. the peace.” And, as if that were not low enough, he gave
to my mother i score, ten lams, no pris mad; it must be 31. 155." That is, thirty lambs for 755. I find, also, the wages paid to this Border farmer's servants, which are curious enough. In May, 1748, “Hyred Jean Nickle and Hana Little till Lady Day for a ston of wool a-pees, and 9s.” And, again, “ Janay Nickle for a ston of wool till Martinmas, and 18s. ;” and “ Adam Scott till Martinmas, that is for the half year, for a pair of shoes and il.” The shoes of that period were of the kind made by the souters of Selkirk-single soled, and it was customary for the men to stitch on an additional sole, for which materials were provided by the master. The shoes cost little money, though not less than a lamb of good quality. One account is, “ To Jean Tealfer a pair of shoes, cost 25, 10d. ;” and “to Will Mitchellhill to buy shoes, 1s." There is no mention of stockings; and, except in the depth of winter, no such article would be worn. In the city of Edinburgh, in the year 1759, Charles Townshend visited the Lord President of the Court of Session, when he was ushered in by a servant without shoes or stockings. The men's