« PreviousContinue »
that of remaining uninjured under water. On the shores of the Mediterranean in general, the natives practise diving with extraordinary success, in shell fishing, gathering bits of rope in the harbours, &c.—indeed they not unfrequently turn the acquirement to the purposes of thieving, by picking out the oakum from ships' bottoms, from wbich practice many unexpected and very serious accidents to vessels have occurred.
As to the length of time during which a person may be capable of floating, or the distance he may be able to swim, so many circumstances have influence, that nothing very precise can be said on the subject. In general a good swimmer ought to make about three miles an hour, and as thirst and the want of nourishment áre less severely felt in the water than on land, by reason probably of the liquid imbibed by the pores of the body while immersed, a good day's journey may be achieved if the strength be used with due discretion, and the swimmer familiar with the various means by which it may be recruited. With the use of these advantages, people have been known to accomplish the extraordinary distance of thirty miles; and it is even recorded of the famous Neapolitan diver, (generally nicknamed Il Pesce, or the Fish,) that upon one occasion he actually performed the incredible distance of fifty miles on the coast of Calabria.
So much for Bernardi's method of teaching and theory of the art of swimming. As to its successful practice we shall allow the Canonico to speak in his own words.
• I having been appointed to instruct the youths of the Royal Naval Academy of Naples in the Art of Swimming, a trial of the proficiency of the pupils took place, under the inspection of a number of people assembled on the shore for that purpose on the tenth day of their instruction. A twelve oared boat attended the progress of the pupils, from motives of precaution. They swam so far out into the Bay, that at length the heads of the young men could with difficulty be discerned with the naked eye, and the Major-General of Marine, Forteguerri, for whose inspection the exhibition was intended, expressed serious apprehensions for their safety. Upon their return to the shore, the young men however assured him, that they felt so little exhausted, as to be willing immediately to repeat the exertion.'
' A young man Niccola Sciarrone, quite unacquainted with swimming, was placed under my care. On the eleventh day of his instruction we entered the water together, accompanied by Signor Romolo, an excellent swimmer ; we proceeded far into the bay of Naples, making a circuit before our return to the shore of nearly six miles; upon this occasion likewise a numerous concourse of spectators assembled.'
These are no doubt sturdy achievements for beginners, even under all the advantages of the genial climate of Naples, and stand somewhat in need of being attested by the following offi
cial report on the subject, drawn up by a commission (appointed by the Neapolitan government) which had devoted a whole month to the investigation of Bernardi's plan.
• Ist. It has been established by the experience of more than an hundred persons of different bodily constitutions, that the human body is lighter than water, and consequently will float by nature : but that the art of swimming must be acquired, to render that privilege useful.
* 2d. That Bernardi's system is new, in so far as it is founded on the principle of husbanding the strength, and rendering the power recruiting it easy. The speed, according to the new method, is no doubt diminished, but security is much more important than speed, and the new plan is not exclusive of the old when occasions may require great effort.
3d. It is established that the new method is sooner learnt than the old, to the extent of advancing a pupil in one day as far as a month's instruction according to the old plan.
We take leave of this subject with the hope that swimming may at length_be admitted as a regular branch in the training of our youth. Dependent as we are, more than any nation within the circle of Europe, on the facilities and resources of the ocean which surrounds our coasts, which invites our familiarity, and upon whose fickle bosom so great a proportion of the population of these islands pursue their daily course, it is surprizing that we should have so long suffered ourselves to remain utterly destitute of any regular means of instruction, in an art so important. We shall in vain search our numerous sea-ports for one establishment where our sons may be trained to hardihood in an element on which the best years of their lives may perhaps have to be passed; and we shall equally in vain search our libraries for one tolerably useful and practical treatise on the art of swimming.
Art. IV.-1. Lettres sur l'Angleterre. Par A. de Staël-Hol
stein. - Paris. 1825. 2. Journal Hepdomadaire des Arts et Métiers, de la Fabrique et
de la Méchanique pratique; des Découvertes, Inventions, Perfectionnemens, Procédés utiles de l'Industrie, et de l'Economie manufacturière, rurale et domestique de l’Angleterre. Paris.
1825. 3. Documens relatifs au Commerce des nouveaux Etats de l'Ame
rique, communiqués par le Bureau de Commerce et des Colonies aur principales Chambres de Commerce de France. Paris. Septembre, 1825. THE attempts which have been made since the communications
between the two countries have become more frequent, to give a true picture of England to the French people, have produced little or no effect. We are hardly better known to them now than'we were ten years ago; neither do we foresee at what period such knowledge is likely to accrue to them. To us the injury is small: we are not either better or worse, intrinsically, for the opinion of others; but the detriment to the willing blind is great; and for this reason solely do we speak our regret. We do think that-however the French may excel us in some of the trifles and amusements of life, and in many things where we do not envy their superiority—we could afford them millions of valuable lessons in all that is great and important. From them we might learn to be more refinedly depraved, more sensual, more selfish, and more specious than we are. By us they might be taught the means which have given wealth and power to these little islands, so much beyond what nature promised them; and here find what the course of policy is which can make the inost free of empires the strongest. As long as the advantage is so much on our side, we can have little selfish reason to regret that no encouragement is held out to a free interchange of commodities.
This obstinate misrepresentation proceeds from one sole and general cause: the French do not wish to know us; nay, they wish not to know us. To know us would be more than they could bear; and they turn aside with soreness from every true estimate of British prosperity.
This feeling is so general throughout society, that we hardly recollect a single manifestation of the contrary; neither would any person dare to show an opposite sentiment, under the risk of excommunication. To acknowledge any thing good in England stamps a Frenchman unworthy of his country; and the best title to be deemed a true patriot is, to assert universal superiority. To this passion every writer is compelled to sacrifice; and if, to his own shortsightedness and blunders, he does not add this national contraction of mind, we doubt whether he could find a reader, nay, a printer, among his countrymen. France requires to be told by every man that she is, in all things, the first of nations; and she would rather hear that flattering falsehood, than be made one jot better than she is. She skips along merrily among contemporaries ; she succeeds in most things which she cares about, because she cares chiefly about trifles; and, with many cankers in her heart, she rejects the probe, as long as her mirror reflects a ruddy complexion, and shows her a fair prospect of pleasure.
Among the writers who have ventured to become an exception to this rule, and have dared to find something tolerable here, is the son of Mad. de Staël, who has produced a volume from which the French might learn many practical truths. The author pos
sesses a talent for observation. He gives his remarks in correct and easy language; and, upon the whole, though the British public may see little to interest them in the account of circumstances with which they are familiar, he has opened a source of light and utility to his countrymen-by which they are not likely to profit.
This volume is divided into letters. The first is · Upon the precautions necessary to be taken by all who would study and observe this country:' and the subject gives opportunity for many useful hints to the Parisians—which they will not take; but in his second letter he hazards a series of heresies for which he must sooner or later expect lapidation. He begins thus: L'on ne sauroit observer l'Angleterre avec un esprit denué de prévention, sans être forcé de reconnaître que la cirilisation y est plus avancée
que dans aucun pays du continent ; que les lumières y sont plus répandues, la science du gouvernement mieux comprise, tous les mouvemens de la machine sociale plus rapides et plus habilement combinés. C'est un fait qui pourrait s'établir a priori,' &c. Now how true soever this may be, it is so little to the taste of any class of Frenchmen, that all the proofs which M. de Staël adduces in support of it will only irritate them more profoundly.
Whether M. de Staël drew this conclusion himself from history, or whether he found it ready drawn to his hand in the Quarterly Review, it is equally new and intrusive in France. The facts however are incontestable, and are irrefragable proofs of what he asserts, that civilization is more advanced in England than in any country of the continent. Her Magna Charta did precede the capitulations wrung by the states-general from the French King John during his captivity in England, by 141 years, but how much more did it precede them in value than in time! The
age of Elizabeth did precede that of Lewis XIV. by about 150 years; but how much richer was it in true splendour and glory, in conquests and in letters, in the arts of war and of peace, in universal progress! The parliament did begin its struggle with Charles I. 149 years before the convocation of the states-general at. Versailles; 141 years did separate the murders of Charles I. and Lewis XVI., and the English restoration was 154 years prior to the French. But with how many more mischiefs, with how much less good, did all these occurrences teem, in the hands of the imitating nation! Although the time which separates these corresponding events in the two countries, be about a century and a half, yet,
in sideration of the value of the events themselves, we cannot help thinking that our superiority in political wisdom and virtue, measured in years, is equal to double that period. Neither can we
subscribe to the salvo which M. de Staël has introduced into his remarks, that the civilization of England, in other respects, is not in proportion to that of her polity. If, by civilization, he understands luxurious and sensual enjoyment, he may be right; but if the word comprises intellectual progress, the development of mind in all its branches, philosophy, letters, industry, and their diffusion through every rank of society, he is utterly mistaken. As the greatest part of these things prospered more in this island, and as her wealth and power were greater in proportion to her original means than those of France, we cannot help concluding, in contradiction to M. de Staël, that, at least since the date of our Magna Charta, Britain has had the start of her rival in civilization properly so called, by much more than one century and a half, time and value included.
A circumstance which strikes the author now before us, and which -though he does not seem to think so--affords no small proof of the superiority of our progress, is this—that the French, in discussing political subjects, launch out into general principles, of which we hardly make any mention. The march of human improvement is first to practise an art, imperfectly perhaps, and merely in relation to our feeble wants. Then comes an observer who examines the instruments, a speculator who inquires into the causes, a philosopher who explains the general principles. This indeed is great improvement, but' the greatest is behind.' The acme of civilization in this art—at least the world has hitherto seen no higheris when its instruments, causes and principles, after undergoing the ordeal of philosophy, re-act upon its practice and make that philosophical. Then the recital of generalities is cast into its ancient history as rudely as a speculator bestows upon its infant and untutored practice the epithet of empiricism. great and noble quotation, which M. de Staël makes from one of the first of mortals, Bacon, the earliest condition is that of the • axiomata infima,' which are those of mere manual exercise, and belong to uncultivated man. These
be found in every infant state, and wherever human beings have continued rude and ignorant, from the sands of the desert to the steppes of the north.
Suprema vero ac generalissima rationalia sunt et abstracta, et nil habent solidi.' The vague and abstract axioms, even when so profound as to be unintelligible, are a nobler exercise of mind than the axiomata infima,' and belong to nations in the middle condition of social progress, or to those whom rigorous necessity has not compelled to be practical. Among the latter, France claims the highest rank: for her best enlightenment-beside luxury -is empty speculation. The' axiomata media,' then, which are vera et solida et viva, in quibus humanæ res et fortunæ sitæ sunt,'
To use a