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Atlantic ocean. Consequently, the general temperature of the air would not be altered the fortieth part of a degree. Nor could this minute impression be wafted to our shores, being invariably spent in the length of the voyage. The opinion which Mr Bradley entertained near an hundred years ago, might have been tolerated in the infancy of physical science; but that the same notion should be revived and proclaimed with confidence at th:s day, may well excite surprise.
On the hypothesis that the quantities of ice which encumber the Arctic seas have been accumulating for a long succession of years, it is assumed as a fact, that throughout Europe a milder and more genial climate had formerly prevailed. A closer inspection of the details, however, will show this supposition to be destitute of any solid support. We hear continual complaints, indeed, of the altered condition of the seasons, especially from elderly persons, whose bodily frame has become more susceptible of the impressions of cold. But similar lamentations have been repeated by the poets and the vulgar from the earliest times. If we listened implicitly to such querulous declaimers, we should believe that Nature has at length spent her fires, and is hastening fast into decay. Immense forests anciently clothed the highest parts of this island, and of other northern countries, where scarcely a tree can now be made to grow; the period of vintage was in former ages several weeks earlier, in France, than at present; vineyards were planted, during the time of the Romans, in various parts of the south of England, where at this day even hops are raised with difficulty; and the sides of many hills in Scotland bear evident traces of the plough, which have been long since irretrievably abandoned to the dusky heath.
But, in answer to such allegations, we may observe, that a patch of wood will not thrive in cold situations, merely for want of the shelter which is afforded by extensive plantations. In Sweden and Norway, which are mostly covered with natural forests, it has become an object of police to prevent their indiscriminate destruction. The timber in those sylvan countries is cut at stated periods of its growth, and in detached portions; the vacant spaces being left as nurseries, embosomed amidst an expanse of tall trees. Some places in Sweden, where the forests have been accidentally destroyed by fire, present the image of sterility, and of wide desolation.
It is probable, that the vines grown in ancient times were coarser and hardier plants than those which are now cultivated. A similar observation extends to all the products of gardening. A succession of diligent culture softens the character of the vegetable tribes, and renders them more delicate, while it heightens the flavour of their fruit. The Roman soldiers stationed in Britain would naturally prefer wine, their accustomed beverage, however harsh and poor, to the cervisia, or unpalatable ale brewed by the rude arts of the natives. The marks of tillage left on our northern hills evince only the wretched state of agriculture at a remote period. For want of a proper system of rotation, and the due application of manure, the starving tenantry were then tempted to tear up with the plough every virgin spot they could find, and, after extracting from it a pitiful crop or two of oats, to abandon it to a lasting sterility. The cattle in those days, having no sort of provender through the winter but dry straw, were quite feeble and exhausted in the spring. The soil
, too, was very stiff, from want of repeated and seasonable tillage. Under such circumstances, it affords no proof of any great heat, that the slothful peasants, oppressed with a load of clothes, usually then began their operations in the field before sunrise, in preparing the ground for the reception of the barley seed.
It is very difficult to ascertain the precise condition of the weather in distant ages. The thermometer was not invented till 1590, by the celebrated Sanctorio; nor was that valuable instrument reduced to a correct standard before the year 1724, by the skill of Fahrenheit. We have hence no observations of température which go further back than a century. Prior to this period, we must glean our information from the loose and scanty notices which are scattered through the old chronicles, relative to the state of the harvest, the quality of the vintage, or the endurance of frost and snow in the winter. Great allowance, however, should be made for the spirit of exaggeration, and the love of the marvellous which infect all those rude historical monuments. Toaldo and Pilgram have, with incredible industry, prosecuted this research; and, from a bulky work of the latter printed in the German language at Vienna in 1788, we shall select the most remarkable passages concerning the state of the weather for more than a thousand years back, and combine with them the observations made by Professor Pfaff of Kiel. The following years are noted for the severity of the winter.
In A. D. 401, the Black Sea was entirely frozen over.
over the ice to avenge his brother's death in Swabia. In 545, the cold was so intense in winter that the birds allow
ed themselves to be caught by the hand. 10 763, not only the Black Sea, but the Strait of the Dar
danelles was frozen over. The snow in some places rose 50 feet high, and the ice was so heaped in the cities 'as to
push down the walls. In 800, the winter was intensely cold. In 822, the great rivers of Europe, such as the Danube, the
Elbe and the Seine were so hard frozen as to bear heavy waggons
for a month. In 860, the Adriatic was frozen. In 874, the winter was very long and severe. The snow con
tinued to fall from the beginning of November to the end of March, and incumbered the ground so much, that the fo
rests were inaccessible for the supply of fuel. In 891, and again in 893, the vines were killed by the frost,
and the cattle perished in their stalls. In 991, the winter lasted very long, with extreme severity.
Every thing was frozen ; the crops totally failed ; and fa
mine and pestilence closed the year. In 1044, great quantities of snow lay on the ground. The
vines and fruit-trees were destroyed, and famine ensued. In 1067, the cold was so intense, that most of the travellers
in Germany were frozen to death on the roads. In 1124, the winter was uncommonly severe, and the snow
lay very long. In 1133, it was extremely cold in Italy; the Po was frozen
from Cremona to the sea; the heaps of snow rendered the roads impassable; the wine casks were burst, and even the
trees split, by the action of the frost, with immense noise. In 1179, the snow was eight feet deep in Austria, and lay
till Easter. The crops and vintage failed; and a great
murrain consumed the cattle. The winters of 1209 and 1210, were both of them very se
vere; insomuch that the cattle died for want of fodder. In 1216, the Po froze 15 ells deep, and wine burst the casks. In 1234, the Po was again frozen; and loaded waggons
crossed the Adriatic to Venice. A pine forest was killed
by the frost at Ravenna. In 1236, the Danube was frozen to the bottom, and remain
ed long in that state. In 1269, the frost was most intense in Scotland, and the
ground bound up. The Categat was frozen between Nor
way and Jutland. in 1281, such quantities of snow fell in Austria as to bury the very
houses. In 1292, the Rhine was frozen over at Breysach, and bore
waggons. One sheet of ice extended between Nor
way and Jutland, so that travellers passed with ease; and in Germany, 600 peasants were employed to clear away
the snow, for the advance of the Austrian army. In 1305, the rivers in Germany were frozen; and much dis
tress was occasioned by the scarcity of provisions and fo
rage. In 1316, the crops wholly failed in Germany. Wheat, which
some years before sold in England at six shillings a quarter,
now rose to two pounds. In 1323, the winter was so severe, that both horse and foot
passengers travelled over the ice from Denmark to Lübeck
and Dantzig In 1339, the crops failed in Scotland; and such a famine en
sued, that the poorer sort of people were reduced to feed on grass, and many of them perished miserably in the fields. Yet in England, wheat was at this time sold so low
as three shillings and fourpence a quarter. In 1344, it was clear frost from November to March, and all
the rivers in Italy were frozen over. In 1392, the vineyards and orchards were destroyed by the
frost, and the trees torn to pieces. The year 1408 had one of the coldest winters ever remem
bered :- Not only the Danube was frozen over, but the sea between Gothland and Oeland, and between Norway and Denmark; so that wolves, driven from their forests, came over the ice into Jutland. In France, the vineyards
and orchards were destroyed. In 1423, both the North Sea and the Baltic were frozen.
Travellers passed on foot from Lübeck to Dantzig. In France, the frost penetrated into the very cellars. Corn and wine failed, and men and cattle perished for want of
food. The successive winters of 1432, 1433, and 1434, were uncom
monly severe. It snowed forty days without interruption. All the rivers in Germany were frozen; and the very birds took shelter in the towns. The price of wheat rose, in
England, to 27 shillings a quarter, but was reduced to 5 · shillings in the following year. In 1460, the Baltic was frozen, and both foot and horse pas
sengers crossed over the ice from Denmark to Sweden. The Danube likewise continued frozen two months; and
the vineyards in Germany were destroyed. In 1468 the winter was so severe in Flanders, that the wine
distributed to the soldiers was cut in pieces with hatchets. In 1544 the same thing happened again, the wine being
frozen into solid lumps.
In 1548, the winter was very cold and protracted. Between
Denmark and Rostock, sledges drawn by horses or oxen
travelled over the ice. In 1564, and again in 1565, the winter was extremely severo
over all Europe. The Scheldt froze so hard as to sup
port loaded waggons for three months. In 1571, the winter was severe and protracted. All the ri
vers in France were covered with hard and solid ice; and
fruit trees even in Languedoc were killed by the frost. In 1594, the weather was so severe, that the Rhine and the
Scheldt were frozen, and even the sea at Venice. The year 1608 was uncommonly cold, and snow lay of im
mense depth even at Padua. Wheat rose, in the Windsor
market, from 36 to 56 shillings a quarter. In 1621 and 1622, all the rivers of Europe were frozen, and
even the Zayder Zee. A sheet of ice covered the Hellespont; and the Venetian fleet was choked up in the lagoons
of the Adriatic. In 1655 the winter was very severe, especially in Sweden.
The excessive quantities of snow and rain which fell did great injury in Scotland. The winters of 1658, 1659, and 1660, were intensely cold. The
rivers in Italy bore heavy carriages; and so much snow had not fallen at Rome for several centuries. It was in 1658 that Charles X. of Sweden crossed the Little Belt, over the ice, from Holstein to Denmark, with his whole army, foot and horse, followed by the train of baggage and artillery. During these years, the price of grain was nearly doubled in England; a circumstance which contributed, among other
causes, to the Restoration. In 1670, the frost was most intense in England and in Den
mark, both the Little and Great Belt being frozen. In 1684, the winter was excessively cold. Many forest trees,
and even the oaks in England, were split by the frost. Most of the hollies were killed. Coaches drove along the Thames, which was covered with ice eleven inches thick. Almost
all the birds perished. In 1691, the cold was so excessive, that the famished wolves
entered Vienna, and attacked the cattle, and even men. The winter of 1695 was extremely severe and protracted.
The frost in Germany began in October, and continued
till April; and many people were frozen to death. The years 1697 and 1699 were nearly as bad. In England,
the price of wheat, which, in preceding years, had seldom
reached to 30 shillings a quarter, now mounted to 71s. Ja 1709, occurred that famous winter, called, by distinction,