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LECTURE V.

Of Minerals, Vegetables and Animals.

COULD a Philosopher condescend to envy the Great, it would not be for their sumptuous palaces and numerous attendants, but for the means and opportunities they have of enquiring into the secrets of Nature, and contemplating the wonderful works of God. There is no subject so worthy of a rational creature, except that of promoting the happiness of Mankind; and none, except that, can give a man of refined taste, and good understanding, so much real satisfaction. But 'tis our misfortune, that few engage in those enquiries, but men of small estate, whose circumstances will not permit them to spare the time, nor support the expence of travelling, which is often necessary to obtain the knowledge they seek after, and for the want of which they are obliged to depend on the relations of those, who have not, perhaps, been so accurate or so faithful as they ought. Considering the <78> quantity of foreign drugs that are used in Britain, it is amazing how little even those who deal in them know of the matter; so little, indeed, that they cannot tell where they grow, or how they are found or manufactured; are unable to distinguish the genuine from the factitious, and may therefore, through mistake, often substitute the one for the other. Health and Life are of too much consequence to be trifled with; yet yet these are neglected, while Fashion, Dress, and Diversions, are fought after throughout the world. This is a melancholy consideration; but this, you'll say, is no part of our Lecture, therefore we shall drop a subject which has thrust itself, as it were, into our way, and speak of the contents of the earth and its products, and inhabitants: for this globe, besides the earth and water which are necessary for the production and support of Plants and Animals, contains other m{a}terials which have been found useful to Man. That Reflecting Telescope, this Gold Watch, and Lady Caroline's Diamond Ear-rings, were all dug out of the Earth; at least, the materials were there found of which these things are composed.

Those sorts of earth which, with the assistance of rain, produce Vegetables or <79> Plants in such abundance are common mould; loam, clay, and sandy soils. There are earths, also, that are different from these, and which are used in medicine, as the Japan Earth, Armenian Bole, &c

The barren parts of the earth are, for the most part, sand, gravel, chalk, and rocks; for these produce nothing, unless they have earth mixed with them. — Of barren sands there are various kinds, though their chief difference is in their colour; for the sand which we throw on paper, to prevent blotting, and that the maid throws on the floor, are both composed of little irregular stones, without any earth, and of such there are large deserts in some parts of the world, and one in particular, where Cambyses, an Eastern Monarch, lost an army of 50,000 men. Sure, says Lady Caroline, you must mistake, Sir. How was it possible for a whole army to be lost in that manner? Why, Madam, returned the Philosopher, the wind, as it frequently does in those parts, raised the sands in clouds for many days together, and the whole army was smothered. And if you read the Life of Alexander the Great, you'll find, Madam, that his army was in great danger, when he crossed the same desert, in his frantick expedition to visit the temple of <80> his pretended Father, Jupiter Ammon — But we return to our subject.

Besides these materials, which compose the surface of the earth, if we dig deeper, we frequently find bodies very different from those we discover near the surface; and these, because they are discovered by digging into the bowels of the earth, are called by the common name of Fossils; though under this head are included all metals and metallic ores, minerals, or half metals, stones of various sorts, petrifactions, or animal substances turned into stone; and many other bodies which have a texture between stone and earth, as, oker of several sorts, with one of which the Farmers colour their sheep; black lead, with which are made those pencils that we use for drawing; and some kinds of chalk, sea-coal, and other bodies that are harder than earth, and yet not of the consistency of perfect stone.

Of stones there are an amazing variety. They are classed by Naturalists under two heads, that is to say, spars and crystals; and by others into vulgar and precious stones. Some of the most considerable, both for beauty and use, are marble, alabaster, porphyry, granite, free-stone, &c. Flints, agats, cornelians, and pebbles, under which kind <81> are placed the precious stones, otherwise called gems or jewels; which are only stones of an excessive hardness, and which, when cut and polished, have an extraordinary lustre. The most valuable of these are diamonds, rubies, saphires,amethysts,emeralds,topazes,and opals.

But there are other stones which, tho' void of beauty, may, perhaps, have more virtue than many of those already mentioned; such as the loadstone, which has the property of directing the needle in the mariners compass always to or near the North Pole; by which means we are enabled to sail even in the darkest night. Such also are whetstones, with which we sharpen our knives and other edge tools; limestones, talc, calamine, or lapis calaminaris, and many others.

Besides the bodies already mentioned, there are also found in the earth a variety of salts, such as rock-salt, or sal gem, vitriol, nitre, and many others.

The minerals, marcasites, or semi-metals, as they are called by the Chemists are antimony, zink, bismuth, &c. These are not inflammable, ductile, or malleable, but are hard and brittle, and may be reduced to powder, and the first after melting, may be calcined by fire.

Mercury or quicksilver, has generally been <82> classed with semi-metals, and, indeed, sometimes among the metals; but I think it ought not to be classed under either of these heads, but considered separately; as also should brimstone, though it be a part of the composition of crude antimony.

Ores are those kinds of earth which are dug out of mines, and that contain in them metallic particles from whence metals are extracted.

Metals are distinguished from other bodies by their weight, fusibility, or melting in the fire, and their malleability, or giving way, and extending under the stroke of the hammer without breaking in pieces. These are six, viz. gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, and iron, which last is the most valuable of them all. They are seldom or never found in any part of the earth but what is mountainous, which, by the way, in some measure proves what we ventured to assert in a former Lecture, viz. that there were mountains before the Deluge; for that there were metals before the Deluge appears by what is said in Holy Writ concerning Tubal Cain, who wrought in brass, &c. and was the inventor of organs.

All stones, minerals, and metals, are supposed to grow organically in the earth from <83> their proper seeds, as vegetables do on the earth's surface. And what sort of bodies are to be found deeper in the earth, I mean towards its centre, is unknown to us; for we can only make ourselves acquainted with the fossils contained in its shell, and the vegetables and animals on its surface, whose nature and properties alone are, indeed, too many to be discovered by human sagacity.

Of Vegetables or Plants.

The Vegetables or Plants growing on the earth may be divided into three classes, I mean those of herbs, shrubs, and trees.

Herbs are those sorts of vegetables whose stalks are soft, and have no wood in them, as parsley, lettuce, violets, pinks, grass nettles, thistles, and an infinite number of others.

Shrubs are those plants which, tho' woody, never grow into trees, but bow down their branches near the earth's surface; such are those plants that produce roses, honey-suckles, gooseberries, currants, and the like.

But trees shoot up in one great stem or body, and rise to a considerable distance from the ground before they spread their branches, as may be seen by the oak, the beech, the elm, the ash, the fir, the walnut-tree, cher <84> ry-tree, and others. From the bodies of trees we have our timber for building, and of the oak-tree in particular for ship-building, no timber being so tough, strong, and durable, as old English oak; nor does any tree, perhaps, yield more timber; for there was one lately sold for forty pounds, from Langley woods, belonging to the Bishop of Salisbury, which measured six feet two inches in diameter, contained ten tons of timber, and was supposed to be a thousand years old.

From a small acorn see the oak arise

Supremely tall, and tow'ring in the skies!

Queen of the groves, her stately head she rears,

Her bulk increasing with the length of years;

Now ploughs the sea, a warlike gallant ship!

Whilst in her womb destructive thunders sleep!

Hence Britain boasts her wide extensive reign,

And by th'expanded acorn rules the Main.

The most considerable parts of plants are the root, the stalk, the leaves, the flowers, and the seed; most of them have these several parts, tho' there are some, indeed, that have no stalk, as the aloe; others that have no leaves, as savine; and others that have no flowers, as fern. But I think there are none without root or seed, though some say that fern is an exception as to the last.

What most excites our wonder with respect to plants (and what, indeed, has been the <85> subject of much dispute among the learned) is their nourishment and propagation. — This, says Master Blossom, I have often heard my father discourse upon when I have been in the garden with him; but as what he said has escaped my memory, I should be glad, Sir, if you would tell me how they receive their nourishment, and how their species are propagated. A disquisition of this nature, says the little Philosopher, would take up too much of your time, and could not be understood without reciting many experiments and observations that have been made by the learned; I shall, therefore, defer the consideration of these till my next course of Lectures. I see no reason for that, says Master Wilson, nor to me does there appear any difficulty in the affair. Why, they receive their nourishment from the earth, don't they? And you sow the seeds of the old plants and they produce new ones.

You are too apt. Master Wilson, says the Philosopher, to talk about things you don't understand. The earth has not, perhaps, so much to do with the nourishment of plants as is generally imagined; for, without water, and particularly rain water and dew, there would be but little increase in vegetables of any kind; and this you may know <86> by the languid state of plants in a dry season, tho' watered ever so often from the river or well. This is known also by the small quantity of earth which is taken up in the growth of plants; for both Mr. Boyle and Dr. Woodward raised several plants in earth watered with rain or spring-water, and even distilled water, and upon weighing the dry earth, both before and after the production of the plants, they have found that very little of it was diminished or taken up by the plant. Taken up by the plant, says Lady Caroline, in some surprize, why you don't imagine there is earth in herbs and trees? Indeed I do, Madam, replied the little Philosopher, and have already hinted as much in what was said on the four elements, and at the same time told your Ladyship, if I mistake not, how it might be extracted from the plant; which was, by burning the plant to ashes, and washing off the salts, as your laundry maid does when she makes lye; for when those salts are washed away the remainder will be earth.

If the earth contributes so little towards the production of plants, says Master {Blyth}, the water, I apprehend, must be a good deal concerned, and that is evident from the quantity of water which most plants require <87> to keep them in a state of health and vigour. Your observation, says the Philosopher, deserves some notice; but how will you account for the growth of plants in sandy deserts, where it seldom rains, and of plants, too, that contain juices in great abundance; for God Almighty, for the preservation of his creatures, has caused those wonderful plants to grow in such barren deserts to supply, in some measure the want of water; and some are so constructed as to hold great quantities of water for the use of animals. This is the case of the ground Pine [1], which, tho' it seems to grow like a fungus or excrescence on the branch of a tree, often contains a pint or quart of sweet water for the birds, beasts, and even men, to refresh themselves with in the sultry climates where they abound. But a plant may hold much water for the subsistance of animals, and yet not subsist on water itself; and that this is the case experience testifies. Dr. Woodward put a plant of spearmint, which weighed 27 grains, into a phial of water, where it stood 77 days, and in that <88> time drank up 2558 grains of spring water; and then being taken out weighed 42 grains, so that the increase was only 15 grains, which is not a hundredth part of the water expended — We are therefore to look for other principles of vegetation that what are generally known: but this I shall consider in my next course of Lectures.

What the plant can obtain by the earth, water, and otherwise for its nourishment, is generally supposed to be received by the fibres of the roots, and conveyed by the stalk or body of the plant up into the branches and leaves thro' small tubes, and then returned by the bark to the root again; so that there is a constant circulation of vital fluids in plants as well as in animals. But I am inclined to think, that a great part of the nourishment of plants is received by the pores of the leaves and skin or bark, as well as from the root, else how happens it that plants are so much refreshed by the dew?

Plants also require air for their nourishment, as well as a circulation of these alimentary juices; for they respire as well as animals, and for that respiration require fresh air, and even exercise; since we know that plants, that are always confined in a close room, will never rise to perfection. And <89> that they perspire as well as animals is evident from the instance of the mint growing in spring water above mentioned; for if not a hundredth part of the water taken up by that plant became a part of the plant itself, all the rest must be perspired thro' the pores, or little imperceptible holes in the skin and leaves. This calls to my mind, says Lady Caroline, a charge my Lord Marquis gave me, which was, never to sit in the yew arbor; for the matter perspired by the yew-tree, says he, is noxious, and will make you ill; and I believe that was the reason of his Lordship's ordering that old arbor to be demolished.

But pray, Sir, why and in what manner can plants perspire? For the same reason, Madam, and in the same manner, perhaps, that animals do, returned the Philosopher. It is occasioned, probably, by heat; for we know they perspire abundantly more in summer than in winter; nay, when this vegetative principle has been long checked by cold, it breaks out with such force, when warm weather comes on, that it is no uncommon thing, in the cold northern countries, to see the trees covered with snow one week, and with blossoms the next.

Plants are propagated different ways, but <90> the most general method is by seed. Some plants, however, are raised by a part of the root of the old plant set in the ground, as potatoes ; others, by new roots propagated from the old ones, as hyacinths and tulips; others, by cutting off branches and putting them into the ground, which will there take root and grow, as vines; and others are propagated by grafting and budding, or inoculation. But what I represented as most mysterious, and intend for the subject of a Lecture in my next Course, is the Sexes of Plants; for many sorts have both male and female organs, and the one will not flourish and increase without the aid of the other.

Of Animals.

We are now to speak of the animals that inhabit the earth, which are naturally divided into Men and Brutes.

Of Men, there seem to be four different sorts — Nay, don't be frightened, Lady Caroline! — Sir, says she, I should have made no objection, had you said four hundred, provided you had distinguished them according to their different dispositions. — True, Madam, says the Philosopher, or according to their different features, and then <91> you might have said four hundred thousand; for it is very true, Madam, tho' very wonderful, that out of four hundred thousand faces you will not find two exactly alike; and but for this miraculous and gracious providence in God, the world would have been all in confusion. But the division I would willingly make of men, Lady Caroline, is that of white, tawney, black, and red; and these you will allow are, with respect to colour, essentially different. Most of the Europeans, and some of the Asiatics, are white; the Africans on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea are tawney; those on the coast of Guinea black; and the original Americans, red, or of a red copper colour: How they came so is only known to their Maker; and therefore I beg you would spare yourselves the trouble of asking me any question on that head.

Brutes may be divided into four classes; that is to say, 1. Aerial, or such as have wings, and fly in the air; as birds, wasps, flies, &c. 2. Terrestrial, or those which are confined to the earth; as quadrupeds, or four-footed beasts; reptiles which have many feet, and serpents, which have no feet at all. 3. Aquatic, or those that live in the water; as fish of all kinds, whether they are covered with scales or shells, or are, like the <92> eel, without either. 4. Amphibious, or those that can live for a long time either upon the earth, or in the water; as otters, aligators, turtles, &c. I say for a long time, because I apprehend that the use of both these elements are necessary for the subsistance of those animals; and that tho' they can live for a considerable time upon land in the open air, or as long in the water, excluded in a manner from air, yet they would languish and die, if confined entirely either to the one or the other of these elements.

In this division of animals we are to observe, however, that there are some which cannot be considered under either class, as being as it were, of a middle nature and partaking of two kinds; thus bats seem to be part beasts and part birds. Some reptiles, likewise, and some of the water animals, want one or more of the five senses with which other animals are endowed; as worms, cockles, oysters, &c. If I mistake not, says Lady Caroline, I have seen the animals divided into different classes in books of Natural History, and described under the heads of beasts, birds, fishes, and insects. Very true, Madam, says the Philosopher; but the present method suits my present purpose the best, and can make no alteration in the <93> nature of things; however, as I have not yet mentioned the word insects, tho' they are included in my division of animals, it may be necessary for me to observe, that they are so called from a separation in their bodies, by which they are seemingly divided into two parts, those parts being only joined together by a small ligament; as in flies, wasps, &c. And as some of these insects undergo different changes, and in time become quite different animals, I shall consider the more particularly in my next course of Lectures, not having time for it at present; for it is a field that is full of wonders, and ought to be examined with great attention. There is something so amazing and miraculous in the transformation of insects, that I am lost in reflection whenever the subject strikes my mind, and sometimes inclined to think that other animals may undergo some such change. Who, that had not made the observation, would think, Madam, that this grub crawling, or rather sleeping here, would by and by become a fine butterfly, decked out in all the gaudy colours of the rainbow; or that this silkworm should be capable of assuming so many different forms. And is it not altogether as miraculous, that if some animals are cut in pieces, every separate <94> piece or part of the original animal will become one entire animal of itself? Yet that the polype or polypus is endowed with this property has been demonstrated; and I have here one that was divided into several parts some time ago, which parts are now become distinct and perfect polypes and alive, as you may see by viewing them thro' this microscope.

But the sagacity and acute senses of some of the animals (in which they seem to exceed man) are altogether as surprizing, as I shall demonstrate in my next course. In your next course, says Master Wilson, why don't you do it now? Peace, prythee, Tom, says the Philosopher, learn this first, and then I'll tell you about beavers building of <95> houses; bees forming themselves into a society and choosing a Queen to govern them; birds knowing the latitude and longitude, and sailing over sea thro' vast tracks of air, from one country to another, without the use of any compass; and other things, which are sufficient, I think, to lower the pride of man, and make even Philosophers blush at their own ignorance. — And now, Lady Caroline, prepare to hear a few hard words and I will finish this Lecture. But why must it be finished in an unintelligible manner? says the Lady. Because I cannot deliver what I am going to say, Madam, without making use of the terms of art, says he, and those I must desire your Ladyship, and the rest of the good company, to learn from Mr. Newbery's pocket dictionary, or some other book of that kind.

All animals receive their food at the mouth, and most animals, but especially those of the human kind, chew it there till it is intimately mixed with the saliva or spittle, and thereby prepared for the easier and better digestion of the stomach. When the stomach has digested the food it is thence conveyed into the guts (pardon the expression, Ladies, for I cannot avoid it) through which it is moved gently, by what is called <96> the peristaltick motion; as it passes there, the chyle, which is the nutritive part, is separated by the la{ct}eal veins, from the excrementitious part, and by them conveyed into the blood, with which it circulates, and is concocted into blood also; and this circulation is thus performed: The blood being, by the vena cava brought into the right ventricle of the heart, by the contraction of that muscle, is forced into the pulmonary artery of the lungs; where the air, which is continually inspired or drawn in by the lungs, mixes with and enlivens it; and from thence the blood, being conveyed by the pulmonary vein into the left ventricle of the heart, the contraction of the heart forces it out, and by the arteries distributes it into all parts of the body, from whence it returns by the veins to the right ventricle of the heart, to pursue the same course again, in order to communicate life and heat to every part of this wonderful machine, the body. But this is not all; for, according to Anatomists, some part of the blood, in the course of its circulation, goes to the head; where a portion of it is separated by the brain, and concocted into animal spirits, which are distributed by the nerves, and impart sense and motion throughout the body. The in <97> struments of motion, however, are the muscles; the fibres, or small threads, whereof, contracting themselves, move the different parts of the body; which in some of them is done by the direction of the mind, and called voluntary motion; but, in others, the mind seems not to be concerned, and therefore these motions are called involuntary.

This is the progress of animal life; by which you will perceive, that a man may, even at home, and within himself, see the Wonders of God in the Works of Creation.

We have now finished our survey of the Universe, and considered these great masses of matter, the Stars and Planets; but particularly our earth and its inhabitants; all which large bodies are made up of inconceivably small bodies, or atoms: And by the figure, texture, bulk, and motion of these insensible corpuscles, or infinitely small bodies, all the phænomena of larger bodies may be explained.

[1] For a more particular account of this plant, we must refer our readers to the Christian's Magazine, Numb. II. where it is introduced with suitable reflections to demonstrate the wonders of God in the works of creation."

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