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PROJECTS AND PROJECTORS.
THERE are few persons who are more obnoxious to general ridicule than Projectors. The world seems ever well disposed to enjoy a broad grin at the schemes, and a hearty laugh at the failures, of those who, having the sphere of their vision extended a few yards farther from their nasal organ than their prosing, plodding consociates, are enterprising enough to venture beyond the pale of tangibilities, and seek honour and renown in the boundless field of unachieved discovery."That is impossible," is a favourite phrase of the vulgar. Such folks have a microcosm of their own, which they people with realities, collected from the narrow circle of individual observation; and whether its limits are confined to a yard, or extend to a mile, they hold all without its circle to be fiction; like the islanders of whom we read, who deem their petty spot of earth to comprise the universe, and all beyond it to be sky and ocean. And yet, let me ask these sappers and miners of aerial castles,-Whose hobby-horses have done so much service to mankind? Where would have been our gas-lights and steamengines; our navigable canals and iron railways; our machines and inventions, the magic potency of which gives wings to the winds and im petus to the waves,-binds the elements in subjection, and places the powers of nature at the disposal of man;-had that glorious spirit of research, which animates the bosoms of the speculative, been quenched by the sarcasms of ignorance? ...... The comforts, the conveniences, the elegances of life-all that gives zest to enjoyment, and charms to existence, are attributable to that spirit, which, in despite of the clamours of prejudice, and the sneers of the knowing, marches onwards with unconquerable perseverance, in full conviction of triumphant success. But for such minds, the world would have remained in its primitive barbarism: science would never have exceeded its nonage; knowledge, confined by the leaden gravity of ignorance, would never have emerged from its prison-house; the arts of civilized life would have yet been undiscovered; and that "god-like spring of action," the human intellect, would for aye have grovelled beneath the iron sway of bigotry and superstition. Out upon the heartless merriment that would crush by its ridicule the longings after hidden knowledge, which lead to such glorious results! Had man ever been content with "things as they are," plodding the same dull road with incurious satisfaction, Time would have grown grey in ignorance: deaf, blind, and stupid, he would never have raised his eyes to Heaven, to discover the glorious phenomena of the stars, nor directed them to Earth, to develope the latent treasures concealed in her bosom; the caves of ocean would have yet been unfathomed, the mysteries of the deep unexplored; and each petty aborigine, in quiescent barbarism, would have formed no wish for intercourse beyond his own paltry community. Man would have felt no care for aught but "meat, clothes, and fire:" thus remaining a fit companion for the brutes by which he was surrounded; and holding all in common with them but the profitless prerogative of speech.
Every attempter at a new discovery, however apparently or really absurd, is, in a degree, the benefactor of his species., Had the an
cients been incited to search after the Philosopher's Stone, or the Infallible Elixir, our knowledge of chemistry, on which we now pride ourselves, would centuries back have been discovered, and the aggregate of universal amelioration, arising from the extension of knowledge, astonishingly augmented. Time has evinced the achievement of apparent impossibilities. The Marquis of Worcester was laughed at for his Century of Inventions, yet every day furnishes fresh proof of their feasibility. Who is there that does not remember the jokes and sarcasms levelled at Winsor, when he first promulgated his scheme of lighting London with gas? Yet who that indulged in thus ridiculing what he could not comprehend, does not blush at the recollection? Time, I repeat, has proved, and is ever proving, that what appears physically impossible to the narrow capacity of the million, receives that complexion merely from their ignorance of principles. It is daily controverting all our prejudices, and driving us from one strong hold of scepticism to another; reconciling apparent contradictions, compassing assumed impossibilities; and evincing the presumption of our judgment. Apparent absurdities have been so often converted into absolute matters of fact, that we should hesitate now at discouraging the well-known projects of the academicians of Lagoda, were they put forth with becoming solemnity in the form of a " Proposal." Extracting sun-beams from cucumbers, may not be altogether visionary; and as to converting saw-dust into deal-boards, an American paper, not many months ago, trumpeted forth its absolute accomplishment. Another of these Laputan speculations has also been realized,—the substitution of the spider for the silkworm. In the early part of the last century, Bon, a native of Languedoc, succeeded in weaving a pair of silk stockings and a pair of gloves from spiders' threads; and Reaumur, who was deputed by the Royal Academy of Paris to inquire into the matter, confirmed the possibility by actual experiment; though he deemed it scarcely worth the trouble, because Messieurs Spiders, being averse to association, fell to and devoured each other; so that, out of two hundred in a cell, in a little time one or two only would be found alive: added to which, two hundred and eighty of them would only equal the product of one silkworm; and it would require 663,555 spiders to produce a pound of silk.
Flesh and blood have been proved incombustible, since the challenge of the anti-pyrist to bake himself in an oven with a shoulder of mutton; men have walked on the water, and sailed in the air; and Astley's Antipodeans have shewn us, that to strut about with the head downwards is no longer a miracle. Who would ever think of "teaching the young idea how to shoot," by military manoeuvres; and of drilling the human mind into the mysteries of learning by mechanical motions? Yet we see nothing wonderful in all this, now it is achieved; though, had such a project been broached in the reign of our British Solomon, the projector would have had a fair chance of being roasted for a wizard.
Though we are grown wise enough to ridicule the working of wonders by any other than natural means; though we have discarded magic and witchcraft, with all their trumpery, from our creed; there is no reason for doubting the possibility of achieving, by the operations of nature, all they were ever said to have achieved; and thus, although
I am convinced that no inhabitant of the other world, in pity to my wants, would pay me a visit to point out hidden treasure; and I can scarcely expect the luck of that Duke of Burgundy, who, whenever he dreamt of concealed riches, was sure to find them; I yet know that fortunes have been made as suddenly by the natural course of events. The lottery, for instance, though the game be a desperate one, and the chances of gaining frightfully remote, has raised many to sudden and unexpected opulence; and this is doubtless a safer and perhaps a surer method of conjuring up riches, than pulling an old house about your ears in search of buried coin, at the bidding of a spectre who appears in a vision, as was lately achieved by a notable dreamer. I should have little faith, too, in a voyage to the moon performed by magic or on the back of Mahomet's donkey; but I know that Bishop Wilkins, of theoretical notoriety, has very learnedly and scientifically evinced that such a scheme is practicable. Like a true philosopher, he has honestly stated every difficulty, and then overcome it by logical and mathematical reasoning. He proves that if a man can by any artifice or invention raise himself twenty miles above the ground, there is little doubt of his being able to reach the planet, although it is nearly 180,000 miles from the earth, because, beyond that height, the regions of air may be traversed as easily as walking on the ground! for nihil grave est in suo loco: there is no gravity in an object, when it is so far removed from the sphere to which it belongs as to be out of the reach of its influence. That he can raise himself to this attitude, he manifests by a variety of inventions, but he shortens the journey at once by proposing the plan of a brother bishop, who conceiving that swallows, cuckoos, and nightingales, take periodical voyages to the moon, thinks it would be no difficult matter to construct a machine, by which those birds might be made to convey a man thither outright at the beginning of winter, and return with him at the end of the spring! The trifling obstacles of eating, drinking, and sleeping, he readily overcomes. to the first, he thinks it possible that a man may live upon air; thus assenting to an old Platonic theory, that there is in some part of the universe a place where men may be nourished by the air they breathe; and none more likely than the fields of ether, where they may gorge on chameleon diet to repletion. For sleeping, what pillow so soft as a cloud? "Can we desire," he asks, "a softer bed than the air, where we may repose ourselves firmly and safely as in our chambers?" Here then is a well-digested plan, learnedly argued, scientifically proved, and seriously set forth; clearly shewing, that a voyage to the moon, so far from being a subject for ridicule, is a demonstrable fact. The erudite projector does not cajole his readers by promising to spirit them thither on a broomstick, or on the back of an enchanted horse. He neither has recourse to the Clavigero of Don Quixote, nor the wooden steed of the Arabian Nights; but satisfactorily proves, by geometrical, astronomical, and mathematical calculation, that the thing is practicable to whoever chooses to attempt it. Strange! that no one has yet been sufficiently enterprising to undertake so useful a journey! That neither the spirit of discovery nor of avarice, which has incited men to "tempt the dangerous deep," dive into the bowels of the earth, and explore perilous and unhealthy regions, has glowed with sufficient fervour in the bosoms of the daring, to inspirit them to such an achievement!
What beneficial results might we not expect from an intercourse between the inhabitants of the two worlds! And how pleasant to travel from one globe to the other, on the wings of the wind, exempt from the extortion of innkeepers, the dread of accidents, the attacks of robbers, and all the hazards of land and ocean; setting hunger and thirst at defiance, with an aërial table ever spread before us, at which we may banquet upon ambrosia, quaff the pure element from the clouds, and revel in the luxuriance of ether! No more need Malthus afflict himself and the world with the fearful anticipation of the earth not being large enough to hold us: the superabundant population may be fighted off to the lunar regions, to cultivate a nearer acquaintance with the spheres, and enter into reciprocal schemes for the mutual advantage of both planets.
I should be loth to enter a house on fire in my night-gown, with no other protection than a talisman in my pocket; and should deem a fire-bucket a better safeguard than Solomon's seal; but if the aforesaid gown had been dipped in Mr. Cook's antiphlogistic solution, and I had washed my hands and face à la Giraldelli, I have no doubt I should be able to march in among the burning embers with becoming confidence. Had I lived, too, in the reign of King James the First, and a lady had assured me that she could preserve a round of beef, so as to be fit for the table a century thence, I should have very piously concluded that she had dealings with the devil; and might have probably been loyal enough to denounce her for a witch; but, living as I do in the nineteenth century, I know very well that the possibility of effecting such a miracle by a chemical process has been clearly demonstrated; and scepticism vanishes before the simple evidence of truth. Matter-of-fact is rapidly triumphing over all our prejudices, serving ejectments on our disbelief, and giving us daily reason for distrusting the testimony of our senses. When we see carriages travelling without horses, and ships ploughing the ocean without sails; when we observe the union of two liquids producing the element of fire, and water frozen without the intervention of cold; when buildings are transported from one place to another without separating the materials; we need no longer give magic alone the credit of working miracles; and may well suspend our judgment, ere we limit the sphere of possibilities. Q. Q. Q.
The Journal of North Brabant for 1819, gives an account of the complete removal of a windmill, over a space of 5520 feet, effected in twelve days! No part of the enormous mass was disarranged, and even a glass filled with water, and placed in the gallery, suffered no agitation, although the mill advanced each day the distance of 460 feet. A house, attached to the mill, constructed chiefly of stone, was also removed in the same manner in five days. The engineer who directed the operation was M. Homberger d'Osterwick.
SKETCHES OF THE IRISH BAR.-NO. IV.
"But where's La-Writ?
Where's your sufficient lawyer?"
The Little French Lawyer,
MR. SAURIN is the son of a Presbyterian clergyman, who followed the duties of his pious but humble calling in the north of Ireland. His grandfather was a French Protestant, who, after the revocation of the edict of Nantz, sought an asylum in Ireland. He is said to have belonged to the family of the celebrated preacher of his name. Saurin was educated in the University of Dublin. It does not appear that he was distinguished by any signal proficiency, either in literature or in science. A collegiate reputation is not a necessary precursor to professional success. He was called to the Bar in the year 1780. His progress was slow, and for thirteen years he remained almost unknown. Conscious of his secret merits, he was not disheartened, and employed that interval in accumulating the stores of legal knowledge. He had few qualities, indeed, which were calculated to bring him into instantaneous notice. He wrought his way with an obscure diligence, and, indeed, it was necessary that he should attain the light by a long process of exfodation. To this day, there is too frequent an exhibition of boisterous ability at the Irish Bar; but in the olden time, the qualifications of a lawyer were measured in a great degree by his powers of vociferation. Mr. Saurin was imperfectly versed in the stentorian logic which prevailed in the roar of Irish Nisi prius; neither had he the matchless imperturbability of front, to which the late Lord Clonmel was indebted for his brazen coronet; but his substantial deserts were sure to appear at last. If he could not fly, he had the strength and the tenacity requisite to climb. His rivals were engaged in the pursuit of political distinction and oratorical renown; all his labours, as well as his predilections, were confined to his profession. While others were indulging in legislative meditations, he was buried in the common law. An acute observer would have seen in his unostentatious assiduity the omen of a tardy but secure success. A splendid intellect will, in all likelihood, ascend to permanent eminence, but the odds of good fortune are in favour of the less conspicuous faculties. Plunket and Saurin have risen to an equality in professional distinction; but, when they both commenced their career, upon a sober calculation, the chances would have been found, I think, upon the side of the latter. Like the slow camel and the Arabian courser, both may be fitted to the desert; and, although the more aspiring and fleeter spirit may traverse in a shorter period the waste of hardships and discouragement which lies between it and success, while, with all its swiftness and alacrity, it requires an occasional relief from some external source of refreshment and of hope yet, bearing its restoratives in itself, the more slow and persevering mind pursues its progress with an unabated constancy, and often leaves its more rapid but less enduring competitor drooping far behind, and exhausted by the labours of its desolate and arid course.
After many years of disappointment, perhaps, but not of despondency, Mr. Saurin's name began to be whispered in the Hall. The little busi