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alludes to a superstitious kind of dread, with which the minds of men are always impressed by such strange and unusual phaenomena.
"As when the sun, new risen,
Looks through the horizontal, misty air,
TO THE HONOURABLE DAINES HARRINGTON
We are very seldom annoyed with thunder-storms; and it is no less remarkable than true, that those which arise in the south have hardly been known to reach this village; for before they get over us, they take a direction to the east or to the west, or sometimes divide into two, and go in part to one of those quarters, and in part to the other; as was truly the case in summer 1783, when though the country round was continually harassed with tempests, and often from the south, yet we escaped them all; as appears by my journal of that summer. The only way that I can at all account for this fact—for such it is—is that, on that quarter, between us and the sea, there are continual mountains, hill behind hill, such as Nore-hill, the Barnet, Butserhill, and Ports-down, which somehow divert the storms, and give them a different direction. High promontories, and elevated grounds, have always been observed to attract clouds and disarm them of their mischievous contents, which are discharged into the trees and summits as soon as they come in contact with those turbulent meteors; while the humble vales escape, because they are so far beneath them. But, when I say I do not remember a thunder-storm from the south, I do not mean that we never have suffered from thunder-storms at all; for on June 5th, 1784, the thermometer in the morning being at 64, and at noon at 70, the barometer at 29—six-tenths one-half, and the wind north, I observed a blue mist, smelling strongly of sulphur, hanging along our sloping woods, and seeming to indicate that thunder was at hand. I was called in about two in the afternoon, and so missed seeing the gathering of the clouds in the north; which they who were abroad assured me had something uncommon in its appearance. At about a quarter after two the storm began in the parish of Hartley, moving slowly from north to south; and from thence it came over Norton-farm, and so to Grange-farm, both in this parish. It began with vast drops of rain, which were soon succeeded by round hail, and then by convex pieces of ice, which measured three inches in girth. Had it been as extensive as it was violent, and of any continuance (for it was very short), it must have ravaged all the neighbourhood. In the parish of Hartley it did some damage to one farm; but Norton, which lay in the centre of the storm, was greatly injured; as was Grange, which lay next to it. It did but just reach to the middle of the village, where the hail broke my north windows, and all my garden-lights and hand-glasses, and many of my neighbours' windows. The extent of the storm was about two miles in length and one in breadth. We were just sitting down to dinner; but were soon diverted from our repast by the clattering of tiles and the jingling of glass. There fell at the same time prodigious torrents of rain on the farms above-mentioned, which occasioned a flood as violent as it was sudden; doing great damage to the meadows and fallows, by deluging the one and washing away the soil of the other. The hollow lane towards Alton was so torn and disordered as not to be passable till mended, rocks being removed that weighed 200 weight. Those that saw the effect which the great hail had on ponds and pools say that the dashing of the water made an extraordinary appearance, the froth and spray standing up in the air three feet above the surface. The rushing and roaring of the hail, as it approached, was truly tremendous.
Though the clouds at South Lambeth, near London, were at that juncture thin and light, and no storm was in sight, nor within hearing, yet the air was strongly electric; for the bells of an electric machine at that place rang repeatedly, and fierce sparks were discharged.
When I first took the present work in hand I proposed to have added an Annus Historico-naturalis, or the Natural History of the Twelve Months of the Year; which would have comprised many incidents and occurrences that have not fallen in my way to be mentioned in my series of letters;—but, as Mr. Aikin of Warrington has lately published somewhat of this sort, and as the length of my correspondence has sufficiently put your patience to the test, I shall here take a respectful leave of you and natural history together;
With all due deference and regard,
And most humble servant,
Selborne, June 25, 1787.