« ZurückWeiter »
the genius loci, we hope to see the day when influences, almost entirely atmospheric, will no longer be the one and only argument for tolerating school fees amply sufficient to supply one master to every twelve boys, and these masters selected from no narrow circle, but chosen, as at the Proprietary Colleges, from the best scholars of the day.
6. But lastly, we have alluded to the public school discipline. We are no advocates for the severities of the
savage pedagogues of days gone by. At Eton, where the paucity of masters tempts to idleness first, the want of ubiquity must be made up by much avoidable flogging afterwards. But the other extreme, no flogging, simply involves no correction : it virtually says, “If any is idle, let him be idle still.”
In proof of this a few months since we were entering the son of a friend at one of the first Proprietary Colleges in England. The men and the methods were excellent; we thought we had at last found the model of a perfect school.
But, passing along the play-ground, we met one of the senior boys, and were glad to ask if his experience of the school did not coincide with the opinion we had formed. His reply was as follows:
“Will your boy learn for the love of learning ?”
It appeared that common sense proved to the master that the severest kind of corporal punishment is that substitute, in the way of confinement and extra work, which pales the cheek, frets the nerves, and affects the whole system. Consequently all secondary punishments were reduced to nothing, and boys who, with two or three floggings as a sample, would have quickened their paces to their master's standard, droned year
after in the lower classes, and left with nearly as little mental development as when they came.
And such is the present state of most of the schools of England, save the old public schools.
And what is the observed result ? The result, as we know from no little experience in examining large schools, is, that boys of sixteen years
of age are not as far advanced as boys of fourteen used to be. Nothing can compensate for the loss of that old-fashioned grammar-school system which handed on a boy from class to class, his faculties ever on the stretch, by a nice gradation of difficulties—and with the severe accuracy and wit-sharpening work .of translating Latin and Greek into English, and the English into Latin, verse as well as prose. In the present state of the school machinery of England, the parent who desires classical education—which means training by classics---may find it; but if he expect any equivalent in "English" or modern education, he will get but the shadow though he sacrifices classics for the substance.
Many hundred species of mosses are known to and described by muscologists, and all possess, more or less, the same characteristics and manifold beauties alluded to in a former paper. More than three hundred species are found in the British islands, which from the dampness of the atmosphere is a favourable situation for them, the diversity of soil and climate also being advantageous; we have high mountains, hills, plains, rocks, bogs, and shady banks, and all these places are found more or less clothed with this pretty drapery of nature. We must not conclude, however, that mosses are confined to damp places alone, for they occur even beneath the torrid zone, and in England dry rocks and the tops of walls are often covered with them. In very dry weather they become shrivelled, and appear to be dead, but are again revived by a wet day, and resume all their former freshness. This power of revival is occasioned by their cellular construction, giving them their great power of absorbing moisture. Even when they have been some years dry, as specimens in a collection, they will revive in a wonderful manner, by being placed in water. There are many curious species found in the mountainous regions of Europe; and even in northern countries, where it is too cold for trees to flourish, mosses make their appearance, and they have even been found in the Arctic regions. A traveller in Greenland says he counted as many as twenty species growing on rocks, even in the barren land where he was resting.
Hooker mentions in his “Muscology" the many singular places in which these little plants are found. He says: “ The soil and substance on which mosses grow is remarkable in some individuals. One curious little plant is found only on the perpendicular faces of the pure white chalk pits that abound so much in Kent and Sussex. Som
are confined to granite; some to calcareous rocks; one species, the Fumaria hygrometrica, a moss that grows in all parts of the world, is almost sure to spring up where anything has been burned on the ground, and particularly where charcoal has been made : whence its French name of La Charbonnière. Some are never found but on the dung of animals, of oxen, and particularly of foxes; this is the case with most of the species of the genus Splachmim. One of these, Splachnum angustatum, we once saw growing vigorously upon the foot of an old stocking, near the summit of Ingleborough, Yorkshire; the same species was found by a friend of ours covering the half-decayed hat of a traveller, who had perished on the mountain of St. Bernard, in Switzerland; and the same, if we mistake not, was discovered by Captain Parry, in Melville Island, vegetating on the bleached skull of a musk ox.”
Thus, though insignificant in size, mosses are found nearly all over the world, proving that they are of use to its inhabitants, either directly or indirectly, or they would not be so universally spread. They prepare the ground for plants of a higher organization. They grow where no others can find nourishment, and by their decay, form in time rich mould for those of larger growth. In England almost the only use made of moss is in packing; gardeners use it for roots and delicate plants; fishmongers, for fish ; and it is also serviceable in packing china. But in Lapland it is more valuable to the inhabitants, for there, where it grows in abundance, they make it into beds, and even coverlids. Some species grow in such compact masses, that a portion can be cut away from the soil, and used when dry as a warm covering, whilst another forms a soft elastic bed; thus giving to the ingenious people both bed and bedding when they can procure nothing better.
It is, perhaps, not generally known that the extensive bogs in Ireland, which are so dangerous to cross without a guide, and from which the poor inhabitants procure the peat so much used as fuel, are formed in a great measure by one particular moss,
in immense masses in watery ground. These extensive tracts of combustible material are extremely valuable when viewed only as yielding peat, but there are other hidden treasures, which have only of late years been brought to light, and which the humble moss has helped to form. The species of the genus Sphagnum grow rapidly in wet places, throwing out new shoots at the upper parts of their branches as the lower decay; the latter becoming in the course of years many feet deep, forming an entangled mass, of so light and yielding a substance, that many people have been buried alive in attempting to cross these seemingly flat plains, unaware of their treacherous formation. Bodies, both of men and women, even horses, and men in armour have been found, and these, from the preserving qualities of the peat, are in a great measure undecayed, though they may have been buried some centuries. Antique sandals, garments made of hair, Roman coins, and warlike instruments have been discovered many feet deep, when the peat has been cut away; thus proving that the vegetable production has grown over and around these remains. One bog, near Newbury in Berkshire, is many
miles in extent on each side the river Kennet. It is from one to cight feet in depth; numbers of large trees are found in it, chiefly alders, willows, and fir, which appear to have been torn up by their roots; mingled with these are the skulls of horses, horns of deer and antelopes, and tusks of boars; Roman urns have also been dug up many feet below the surface of this curious vegetable formation.
These bogs are very deceptive to the eye, looking green and level, grass and rushes growing in places upon them, and seeming to denote safe footing; but they are very dangerous to cross when of any extent, without knowing the firm spots and paths amidst the treacherous swampy tracts. On one occasion I proved the truth of these observations myself, for, attracted by a beautiful bog-plant, I was stepping fearlessly through a flat, clear space in a wood when suddenly I found the ground yielding under me in a very unusual manner, and on examination, found I was walking on a mass of sphagnum many inches deep, covering a circular extent of ground, which had evidently been a pond some years before, the centre of which even then was so wet and yielding that I dare not cross it. Now this was a bog in miniature ; but if that wood were left without the care of man, the trees would fall by age, the sphagnum, rushes, and weeds would grow rapidly, the trees would be covered in the course of time, the extent and depth would increase, and a bog would be formed exactly like those in Ireland, and other localities, in which cattle, and even men, might be lost. Such is the formation of bogs in wild, uncultivated countries, and though they render the land useless for agricultural purposes, they give to the poor inhabitants of the neighbourhood cheap fuel. It is said that “peat moss subjected to a moderate degree of pressure, becomes a fuel which, taking weight for weight, is capable of affording light and heat equal to the best common Scotch coal.” In fact, peat is a formation similar to coal, but it has not undergone the pressure of ages, necessary to render it hard and compact like that substance. The greater part of the extensive bogs in the British Isles are formed of this humble weed. In Ireland it is calculated that there are two million eight hundred and thirty thousand acres of peat bog, varying in depth from six to forty feet. This extraordinary vegetable mass is wonderful for its extent alone, but how much more so when we consider the riches it contains, and which, if properly valued and worked would be capable of enriching the population. Chemists have discovered that peat contains sulphate of ammonia, acetate of lime, naphtha, paraffin, and two varieties of oil, and they say that nearly £100 may be realized from a hundred tons of peat. Here then lie riches untold, and should the bog ever be worked to any extent, it may provide employment and food for all the
inhabitants. I wish now to carry my readers, in imagination, to the bog of Allan, in Ireland, that they may learn a few more particulars of this wonderful formation. When we have left Dublin twenty miles behind, look over the extensive flat, intersected by canals and roads leading to various places of trade and importance. The canal is dotted here and there with “fly boats," conveying goods and passengers, and the bog extends on each side for many miles. We will, however, be satisfied with a distant view of its extent, and need only make a short excursion from the high road. It is now much smaller than formerly, only
comprising about three hundred thousand acres, and this will gradually diminish under the hand of cultivation. It is well situated for drainage, being higher than the Liffey and Shannon, and will in time, most likely, become useful and profitable land. You will observe erections, raised only a few feet above the surface, looking like heaps of turf; can you believe them to be the dwellings of human beings? They are the huts of peat cutters.
will see they are nothing more than a hole cut in the turf, lined with wood, and having a slight roof, leaving space at the top for the escape of smoke. “Do these healthy looking children live in this miserable hut?” you will exclaim. They do, and thrive wonderfully, for the bog has not an unwholesome atmosphere as you might suppose ; it has a different effect on the health to that on the borders of
where vegetation is in a state of decay. Here everything that lies in the bog is preserved in a wonderful manner. Skeletons, and even bodies, have been found which have lain there for ages, and yet have been perfectly preserved ; whole trecs are met with frequently, and the wood is so sound that it is useful to the carpenter. Bog-oak is often used for making articles of furniture, and also for bracelets and brooches.
Call the attention of that woman, and you may learn something of the nature of her husband's employment; she looks ncat, intelligent, and not even Irish. “No, I am not Irish,” is the answer; “but my husband is;
I married him in Dublin, where I was in service. At that time he was a small farmer, but the estate was sold, and wishing to emigrate, he does not intend to settle again, so he is turf cutting this summer to gain money for our voyage. My good man is sober and industrious, and we shall do well where work is plentiful, and our boy will soon be useful. You wish to know how we prepare the peat, I will tell you as well as I can. You see, these are the turf barrows, and these are the ‘slanes,' or spades. My husband has three men to work with him ; one goes before him to pare and level the bank, he himself cuts the turf evenly in slices, the third man lifts them on the barrows, and the other wheels them into the 'spread field,' out yonder, where the bog has been cleared. Their day's work is called a ‘dark,' and three or four darks' make fuel enough for one fire for a year.”
Can you give an idca of how much a dark consists ?” depends upon
hasband reckons a good day's work to be about sixty yards long, one yard wide, and one deep; and he makes his turfs about two and a half inches square. They are thrown in heaps from the barrow on the field, and left for a week. After that I go with the children, and spread them over the ground, bringing the underside upwards, so as to dry them equally. In another week we collect them into little heaps, placing about six in a circle on