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Mr. Hoffman soon after went in his turn to visit Mr. Ludwig, and take a view of his dwelling, his library, his study, and his instruments. He found an old crazy cottage, the inside of which had been long blacked with smoke; the walls were covered with propositions and diagrams written with chalk. In one corner was a bed, in another a cradle; and, under a little window at the side, three pieces of board, laid side by side over two tressels, made a writing table for the philosopher, upon which were scattered some pieces of writing paper containing extracts of books, various calculations, and geometrical figures; the books, which have been mentioned before, were placed on a shelf with the compass and ruler that have been described, which, with a wooden square and a pair of six-inch globes, constituted the library and musæum of the truly celebrated John Ludwig.
In this hovel he lived till the year 1754, and while he was pursuing the study of philosophy at his leisure hours, he was indefatigable in his day labour as a poor peasant, sometimes carrying a basket at his back, and sometimes driving a wheelbarrow, and crying such garden-stuff as he had to sell, about the village. In this state he was subject to frequent insults, such as “ patient merit of the unworthy takes,” and he bore them without reply or any other mark either of resentinent or contempt, when those who could not agree with him about the price of his commodities used to turn from him with an air of superiority, and call him in derision a silly clown, a stupid dog.
Mr. Hoffman, when he dismissed him, presented him with 100 crowns, which have fulfilled all his wishes and made him the happiest man in the world : with this sum he has built himseit a more commodious habitation in the middle of his vineyard, and furnished it with many moveables and utensils, of which he was in great want, but above all, he has procured a very considerable addition to his library, an article so essential to his happiness, that he declared to Mr. Hoffman, he would not accept the whole province in which he lived upon condition that he should renounce his studies, and that he had rather live on bread and water, than with hold from his mind that food, which his intellectual hunger perpetually required.
XII. Secret of the Fire-eating Art.
Ashbourn, Derb. Jan. 20.
LAST spring Mr. Powell, the famous fire-eater, did us the honour of a visit at this town; and, as he set forth in his printed bills, that he had shewn away not only before most of the crowned heads in Europe, but even before the Royal Society of London, and was dignified with a curious and very ample silver medal, that, he said, was bestowed on him by that learned body, as a testimony of their approbation, for eating what nobody else could eat, I was prevailed upon, at the importunity of some friends, to go and see a sight that so many great kings and philosophers had not thought below their notice. And, I confess, though neither a superstitious nor an incurious man, I was not a little astonished at his wonderful performance in the fire-eating way.
After many restless days and nights, and the profoundest researches into the nature of things, I almost despaired of accounting for the strange phænomenon of a huinan and perishable creature eating red hot coals, taken indiscriminately out of a large fire, broiling steaks upon his tongue, swallowing huge draughts of liquid fire as greedily as a country squire does roast beef and strong beer. Thought I to myself, very wisely and logically, how can the minor include the major? How can that element, which we are told is ultimately to devour all things, be devoured itself, as familiar diet, by a mortal man? Here I stuck, and here I miglit have stuck, as a very learned man says in another matter of great importance, if a thought had not darted into my mind, early one morning, as I lay betwixt sleeping and waking, that I had, many years ago, read something of this kind in the Journal des Sçavans. Like Archimedes I started out of bed, and cried evenxa, I have found it out, I have it, rushing at the same time almost naked into my study, where, in the 8th volume of that work, p. 282, I met with the following anecdote :
“ The secret of fire-eating was made public by a servant to one Richardson an Englishman, who shewed it in France about the year 1667, and was the first performer of the kind that ever appeared in Europe. It consists only in rubbing the hands, and thoroughly washing the niouth, lips, tongue, teeth, and other parts that are to touch the fire, with pure spirit of sulphur. This burns and cauterizes the epidermis,
or upper skin, till it becomes as hard as thick leather, and every time the experiment is tried it becomes still easier than before. But if, after it has been very often repeated, the upper skin should grow so callous and horny as to become troublesome, washing the parts affected with very warm water, or hot wine, will bring away all the shrivelled or parched epidermis. The flesh, however, will continue tender and unfit for such business till it has been frequently rubbed over again with the same spirit.
“ This preparative may be rendered much stronger and more efficacious, by mixing equal quantities of spirit of sulphur, sal-ammoniac, essence of rosemary, and juice of onions.
“ The bad effects which frequently swallowing red-hot coals, melted sealing wax, rosin, brimstone, and other calcined and inflammable matter, might have had upon his stomach, were prevented by drinking plentifully of warm water and oil, as soon as he left the company, till he had vomited all up again."
My author farther adds,“ that any person who is possessed of this secret, may safely walk over burning coals, or redhot plough-shares,” (as queen Emma is said to have done,) and fortifies his assertion by the example of blacksmiths and forgemen, “ many of whom,” he says, a degree of callosity, by often handling hot things, that they will carry a glowing bar of iron from the furnace to the anvil in their naked hands, without hurt."
This anecdote was communicated to the author of the Journal des Sçavans, by M. Panthot, doctor of physic, and member of the college at Lyons.
Tavernier says in his Voyages, that he met with a slave, who would suffer himself, for a small reward, to be hung round with heavy chains of iron red-hot, and that he would keep them on till they were quite cold, without the least apparent sense of pain. This slave must certainly have been acquainted with something more powerful than the preceding receipt to resist the strength of fire, as such a weight must considerably increase its activity, and consequently its penetration.
Whether Mr. Powell will take it kindly of me thus to have published his secret, I cannot tell, but as he now begins to drop into years, has no children that I know of, and inay die suddenly, or without making a will, I think it is a great pity so genteel an occupation should become one of the artes perdite, as possibly it may, if proper care is not taken ; and therefore hope, after this information, some
true-hearted Englishmen will take it up again, for the honour of his country, when he reads in the newspapers, Yesterday died, much lamented, the famous Mr. Powell. He was the best, if not the only, fire-eater in the world, and it is greatly to be feared his art is dead with him.
Before that fatal period, I would not, upon any account, be thought to encourage him to set up for himself, or take the poor man's coals out of his mouth, which are to be sure his daily bread; though he may in the mean time be preparing for it, without the least imputation of injustice or ill neighbourhood, by going through a regular course of searings, and now and then a gentle scorch or two, to try how he can stand fire.
I am, Sir, yours, &c.
Extracts of some trials made by Stephen Hales, D.D. F.R.S.
to keep water and fish sweet with lime-water, &c.
APRIL 9, 1754, He put into a seven-gallon cask of water, in the proportion of a pound to a hogshead, some white marble lime.
April 26, It tasted a little of the wood, and smelt somewhat ill, and more so in July 27, when it was poured away.
June 15, He put into an 18-gallon cask 18 ounces of unslacked lime-stone from Shropshire.
June 25, The water was sweet, but tasted disagreeably of the cask, and was the same August 24 ; but October 17, the taste was somewhat worse, and November 12, seemed to smell and taste putrid, but the prevailing taste was from the cask.
He put also into a 9-gallon cask two ounces of the same unslacked lime-stone to a gallon, and found it much the saine all along as the former.
With chalk-lime at two pounds to a hogshead, it stunk much, and continued to do so for four months; so that chalk-lime, so much in use, will not preserve water from
putrefaction, though stone-lime does in a great measure, and therefore
very serviceable at sea. April 2, He put into a kilderkin, or 18 gallons of pure pond water,a pound of native mineral sulphur in seven lumps.
April 26, Sweet ; May 3, began manifestly to stink ; May 7, stunk much, and was poured away.
May 8, The kilderkin being scalded, it was filled again with the same pond water, and six pounds of native mineral sulphur put into it.
July 27, It was sweet; October 17, it was discoloured, and in a very small degree fætid ; November 12, the same.
Hence native mineral sulphur may be of service to preserve water from great degrees of putrefaction at sea.
Dr. Alston having wrote him word, that he found fish would continue sweet in lime-water 7 weeks and more :
April 19, He put four gudgeons into white marble limewater; May 10, they were sweet, but the fiesb pappy
when boiled. May 22, they smelt sweet, and felt firm, but on boiling dissolved like an anchovy. June 12, one of the gudgeons, though sweet and firm to the touch, dissolved in new-made stone-lime-water, only milk-warm.
June 18, Two small eels skinned, were put into stonelime-water; June 22, one of them, which was firm to handle, when boiled was soft and pappy; June 25, the other eel was the same when boiled.
In order to try whether the lime, which adhered to, and had soaked into the flesh of the fish which had lain in Timewater, bad the quality of thus dissolving the texture of the flesh in boiling ; he boiled a small eel, and a morsel of mutton for ten minutes, in stone-lime-water, when they were boiled enough, and were of a due degree of firmness, and not pappy. A like eel boiled in well-water, was boiled enough in five minutes.
Hence it appears, that the lime does not, in boiling so short a time, dissolve the texture of the flesh into a pap, which must therefore be the effect of unfætid putrefaction
But lime-water made of chalk-lime has very little of an antiseptic quality; for the year before, in the month of May, he put some gudgeons and an eеl into common lime-water, and in seven days boiled one of the gulgeons, but found it too putrid to eat. After 28 days be boiled another, and it was boiled almost into indiscernible parts ; which shews that it was much putretied. Dr. Alston likewise informed him, that he put a piece of veal in pounded or slacked stone-lime, which in a week became tough and dry. He therefore put a piece of veal from half to three-quarters of