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therefore, that it should be a traditional story, that by way of atoning for some affront to that god, the oracle commanded the Athenians to double his altar; an injunction, we know, which occupied the keen sagacity of the Greek geometricians for more than half a century before they were able to obey it. It is to the great honour, however, of this inimitable people, the Greeks, a people whose genius seems to have been equally fitted for the investigations of science and the works of imagination, that the immortal Euclid, centuries before our era, composed his Elements of Geometry; a work which, for two thousand years, has been, and still continues to be, a text book for instruction in that science.
A history of mechanical philosophy, however, would not begin with Greece. There is a wonder beyond Greece. Higher up in the annals of mankind, nearer, far nearer, to the origin of our race, out of all reach of letters, beyond the sources of tradition, beyond all history except what remains in the monuments of her own art, stands Egypt, the mother of nations ! Egypt! Thebes! the Labyrinth! the Pyramids! Who shall explain the mysteries which these names suggest? The Pyramids! Who can inform us whether it was by mere numbers, and patience, and labour, aided perhaps by the simple lever; or if not, by what forgotten combinations of power, by what now unknown machines, mass was thus aggregated to mass, and quarry piled on quarry, till solid granite seemed to cover the earth and reach the skies?
The ancients discovered many things, but they left many things also to be discovered; and this, as a general truth, is what our posterity, a thousand years hence, will be able to say, doubtless, when we and our generation shall be recorded also among the ancients. For, indeed, God seems to have proposed his material universe as a standing perpetual study to his intelligent creatures ; where, ever learning, they can yet never learn all; and if that material universe shall last till man shall have discovered all that is unknown, but which, by the progressive improvement of his faculties, he is capable of knowing, it will remain through a duration beyond human measurement, and beyond human comprehension.
The ancients knew nothing of our present system of arithmetical notation ; nothing of algebra, and, of course, nothing of the important , application of algebra to geometry. They had not learned the use of logarithms, and were ignorant of fluxions. They had not attained to
to the Pope, and the water the same water to id, like the
any just method for the mensuration of the earth, a matter of great moment to astronomy, navigation, and other branches of useful knowledge. It is scarcely necessary to add, that they were ignorant of the great results which have followed the development of the principle of gravitation.
In the useful and practical arts, many inventions and contrivances, to the production of which the degree of ancient knowledge would appear to us to have been adequate, and which seem quite obvious, are yet of late origin. The application of water, for example, to turn a mill, is a thing not known to have been accomplished at all in Greece, and is not supposed to have been attempted at Rome till in or near the age of Augustus. The production of the same effect by wind, is a still later invention. It dates only in the seventh century of our era. The propulsion of the saw by any other power than that of the arm is treated as a novelty in England so late as in the middle of the sixteenth century. The Bishop of Ely, ambassador from the Queen of England to the Pope, says he saw, " at Lyons, a saw-mill driven with an upright wheel, and the water that makes it go is gathered into a narrow trough, which delivereth the same water to the wheels. This wheel hath a piece of timber put to the axletree end, like the handle of a broch (a hand organ), and fastened to the end of the saw, which being turned with the force of water, hoisteth up the saw, that it continually eateth in, and the handle of the same is kept in a rigall of wood from setering. Also the timber lieth, as it were, upon a ladder, which is brought by little and little to the saw by another vice.” From this description of the primitive power-saw, it would seem that it was probably fast only at one end, and that the broch and rigall performed the part of the arm in the common use of the hand-saw.
It must always have been a very considerable object for men to possess, or obtain, the power of raising water otherwise than by mere manual labour. Yet nothing like the common suction-pump has been found among rude nations. It has arrived at its present state only by slow and doubtful steps of improvement; and, indeed, in that present state, however obvious and unattractive, it is something of an abstruse and refined invention. It was unknown in China until Europeans visited the “ Celestial Empire ;" and is still unknown in other parts of Asia, beyond the pale of European settlements, or the reach of European communication. The Greeks and Romans are supposed to have been ignorant of it, in the early times of their history; and it is usually said to have come from Alexandria, where physical science was much cultivated by the Greek school under the patronage of the Ptolemies.
These few and scattered historical notices of important inventions have been introduced only for the purpose of suggesting that there is much which is both curious and instructive in the history of mechanics; and that many things, which to us in our state of knowledge seem so obvious that we should think they would at once force themselves on men's adoption, have, nevertheless, been accomplished slowly and by painful efforts. · But if the history of the progress of the mechanical arts be interesting, still more so, doubtless, would be the exhibition of their present state, and a full display of the extent to which they are now carried. The slightest glance must convince us that mechanical power and mechanical skill, as they are now exhibited in Europe and America, mark an epoch in human history worthy of all admiration. Machinery is made to perform what has formerly been the toil of human hands, to an extent that astonishes the most sanguine, with a degree of power to which no number of human arms is equal, and with such precision and exactness as almost to suggest the notion of reason and intelligence in the machines themselves. Every natural agent is put unrelentingly to the task. The winds work, the waters work, the elasticity of metals work; gravity is solicited into a thousand new forms of action ; levers are multiplied upon levers; wheels revolve on the peripheries of other wheels. The saw and the plane are tortured into an accommodation to new uses; and, last of all, with inimitable power, and “ with whirlwind sound,” comes the potent agency of steam. In comparison with the past, what centuries of improvement has this single agent comprised in the short compass of fifty years ! Everywhere practicable, everywhere efficient, it has an arm a thousand times stronger than that of Hercules, and to which human ingenuity is capable of fitting a thousand times as many heads as belonged to Briareus. Steam is found in triumphant operation on the seas ; and under the influence of its strong propulsion, the gallant ship,
“ Against the wind, against the tide,
Still steadies with an upright keel.”
It is on the rivers, and the boatman may repose on his oars; it is in highways, and exerts itself along the courses of land conveyance; it is at the bottom of mines, a thousand feet below the earth's surface; it is in the mill, and in the workshops of the trades. It rows, it pumps, it excavates, it carries, it draws, it lifts, it hammers, it spins, it weaves, it prints. It seems to say to men, at least to the class of artisans, “ Leave off your manual labour, give over your bodily toil ; bestow but your skill and reason to the directing of my power, and I will bear the toil,— with no muscle to grow weary, no nerve to relax, no breast to feel faintness.” What further improvements may still be made in the use of this astonishing power it is impossible to know, and it were vain to conjecture. What we do know is, that it has most essentially altered the face of affairs, and that no visible limit yet appears beyond which its progress is seen to be impossible. If its power were now to be annihilated, if we were to miss it on the water and in the mills, it would seem as if we were going back to rude ages.
47.-AUTHORS OF EIGHTY YEARS AGO.
SMOLLETT. (Tobias Smollett, whose novels will continue to be read in spite of their defects as works of art and their habitual coarseness, was the descendant of an old Scottish family, and was born at Cardross, in 1721. He was apprenticed to a surgeon at Glasgow, and served as a surgeon's mate in a ship of the line. Many of his early adventures are supposed to he told in his · Roderick Random.' He came to London in 1746, and entered upon a career of authorship, which he pursued till his death in 1771. Inferior to Fielding in knowledge of character, he is equal to him in describing scenes of real life; but the poetical power, without which no work of fiction can be perfect, is wholly wanting in his writings. He had amongst his literary brethren a turmoil of controversy; and his position, as the Editor of the Critical Review,' gave him the opportunity, which some anonymous critics know how to exercise, of gratifying his vanity and love of power, with slight regard to truth and justice. He is, however, represented as a generous man, and exhibited much kindness to the needy writers by whom he was surrounded. The state of letters at that period is admirably described in a paper on Johnson, by the Right Hon. T. B. Macaulay, from which we shall take the liberty of quoting in this volume. Smollett has painted a literary scene at his own house, in his · Humphrey Clinker,' which is, perhaps, not a greatly exaggerated picture of the class of men who
lived by the pen, when “ the age of patronage had passed away, and the age of general curiosity and intelligence had not arrived.")
In my last I mentioned my having spent an evening with a society of authors, who seemed to be jealous and afraid of one another. My uncle was not at all surprised to hear me say I was disappointed in their conversation. “A man may be very entertaining and instructive upon paper,” said he, “and exceedingly dull in common discourse. I have observed that those who shine most in private company are but secondary stars in the constellation of genius. A small stock of ideas is more easily managed and sooner displayed, than a great quantity crowded together. There is very seldom anything extraordinary in the appearance and address of a good writer; whereas a dull author generally distinguishes himself by some oddity or extravagance. For this reason I fancy that an assembly of grubs must be very diverting.”
My curiosity being excited by this hint, I consulted my friend Dick Ivy, who undertook to gratify it the very next day, which was Sunday last. He carried me to dine with S- , whom you and I have long known by his writings. He lives in the skirts of the town, and every Sunday his house is open to all unfortunate brothers of the quill, whom he treats with beef, pudding, and potatoes, port, punch, and Calvert's entire butt-beer. He has fixed upon the first day of the week for the exercise of his hospitality, because some of his guests could not enjoy it on any other, for reasons that I need not explain. I was civilly received, in a plain yet decent habitation, which opened backwards into a very pleasant garden, kept in excellent order; and, indeed, I saw none of the outward signs of authorship, either in the house or the landlord, who is one of those few writers of the age that stand upon their own foundation, without patronage, and above dependence. If there was nothing characteristic in the entertainer, the company made ample amends for his want of singularity.
At two in the afternoon I found myself one of ten messmates seated at table; and I question if the whole kingdom could produce such another assemblage of originals. Among their peculiarities I do not mention those of dress, which may be purely accidental. What struck me were oddities originally produced by affectation, and afterwards