« IndietroContinua »
A LETTER FROM WASHINGTON IRVING.
May 13th, 1842.
I have not been able to call on many of my old friends, but have met some of them on public occasions. Many of the literary men I met at an anniversary dinner of the Literary Fund, at which Prince Albert presided. Here I sat beside my friend Moore, the poet, who came to town to attend the dinner. He looks thinner than when I last saw him, and has the cares and troubles of the world thickening upon him1 as he advances in years. He has two sons: both had commissions2 in the army. The youngest has recently returned home, broken in3 health, and in danger of a consumption. The elder, Tom, has been rather wild, and is on his return from India, having, for some unknown reason, sold his commission. The expenses of these two sons bear hard upon poor Moore, and he talks with some despondency of the likelihood of his having to come upon the Literary Fund for assistance.
The Literary Fund dinner was very splendid, and there was much dull speaking from various distinguished characters. I had come to it with great reluctance, knowing that my health would be drunk; and though I had determined not to make a speech in reply, yet the very idea of being singled out, and obliged to get on my legs and return thanks, made me nervous throughout the evening. The flattering speech of Sir Robert Inglis, by which the
1 Turn has-him briefly by 'his earthly cares and troubles thicken' (häufen sich).
2 See page 39, note 13.
3 Broken in, in hinfälliger. 4 Use consumption in the accusative case, and supply the supine zu bekommen. Wild, here unbesonnen.
5 Render bear hard upon by lasten
schwer auf dem, and of his-upon by 'that he will be obliged to have recourse to.'
6 Turn there-from by 'man
7 To-legs, aufzustehen.
toast was preceded,1 and the very warm and prolonged cheering by which it was received, instead of relieving,2 contributed to agitate me, and I felt as if I would never attend a public dinner again, where I should have to undergo such a trial.-Life and Letters of Washington Irving, by his Nephew, PIERRE F. IRVING.
EFFECT OF COLD.
It now became rather a painful experiment to touch any metallic substance in the open air with the naked hand; the feeling produced by it exactly resembling that occasioned by the opposite extreme of intense heat, and taking off the skin from the part affected. We found it necessary, therefore, to use great caution in handling our sextants and other instruments, particularly the eye-pieces of the telescopes, which, if suffered to touch the face,5 occasioned an intense burning pain; but this was easily remedied by covering them over with soft leather. Another effect, with regard to the use of instruments, began to appear about this time. Whenever any instrument which had been some time exposed to the atmosphere, so as to be cooled down to the same temperature, was suddenly brought below into the cabins, the vapour was instantly condensed all around it, so as to give the instrument the appearance of smoking, and the glasses were covered
almost instantly with a thin coating of ice,1 the removal of which required great caution, to prevent the risk of injuring them, until it had gradually thawed, as they acquired the temperature of the cabin. When a candle was placed in a certain direction from the instrument with respect to the2 observer, a number of very minute spiculæ of snow were also seen sparkling around the instrument, at the distance of two or three inches from it, occasioned, as we supposed, by the cold atmospheres produced by the low temperature of the instrument, almost instantaneously congealing into that form the vapour which floated in its immediate neighbourhood.-SIR W. E. PARRY, Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage.
DE QUINCEY ON GERMAN LITERATURE.
MY DEAR F.,
Grasmere, Oct. 18th, 1821.
You ask me to direct you generally in your choice of German authors; secondly, and especially, among those authors to name my favourite. In such an ocean as German literature,5 your first request is of too wide a compass for a letter; and I am not sorry that, by leaving it untouched, and reserving it for some future conversation, I shall add one moment's (in the language of dynamics) to the attractions of friendship and the local
1 Coating of ice, Eishülle.
2 With the, mit Rücksicht auf die Stellung des; minute-snow, äußerst kleiner isnadeln.
3 Supply 'which was.'
4 Supply 'quite' before especially, and turn among-favourite by 'to name to you among these my favourite author.'
5 Supply es ist, and render of compass by zu umfassend.
6 See for this and the following pres. part. Int. p. xv. ii. a.
7 Render here for by auf, and turn some by 'a.'
8 Retain the same expression, and use the noun attractions, referring to friendship, in the singular.
would (I think) at a fitting opportunity prove to be so,this power is NOT two-headed, but a one-headed Janus with two faces: the pathetic and the humorous are but different phases of the same orb; they assist each other, melt1 indiscernibly into each other, and often shine each through each like layers of coloured crystals placed one behind another.
INFLUENCE OF NATURAL AGENCIES.2
If we inquire what those physical agents are by which the human race is most powerfully influenced, we shall find that they may be classed under1 four heads,—namely, Climate, Food, Soil, and the General Aspect of Nature;5 by which last I mean those appearances which, though presented chiefly to the sight, have, through the medium of that or other senses, directed the association of ideas, and hence in different countries have given rise to different habits of thought. To one of these four classes may be referred all the external phenomena by which man has been permanently affected. The last of these classes, or what I call the General Aspect of Nature, produces its principal results by exciting the imagination, and by
suggesting those innumerable superstitions1 which are the great obstacles to advancing knowledge.
The other three agents, namely Climate, Food, and Soil, have, so far as we are aware,2 had no direct influence of this sort; but they have, as I am about to prove, originated the most important consequences in regard to the general organization of society, and from them there have followed many of those large and conspicuous differences between3 nations, which are often ascribed to some fundamental difference in the various races into which mankind is divided. But while such original distinctions of race1 are altogether hypothetical, the discrepancies which are caused by difference of climate, food, and soil are capable of a satisfactory explanation, and, when understood, will be found to clear up many of the difficulties which still obscure the study of history.-HENRY THOMAS BUCKLE, History of Civilization in England.
A FATAL JOKE.
Borso lay ill, and his medical advisers pronounced his case hopeless, because they were too ignorant to cure him. His malady was a raging fever. Nature at first