Imagens das páginas

dous tablature, are deep lakes,-rapid currents, and whirlpools, -earthquakes occafioned by the finking of rocks, the falling in of caverns, and the explofions of volcanos,-general and parti calar hurricanes-vortices of fmoke,-tempefts produced by these violent convulfions of earth and fea, inundations, and impetuous floods and torrents, occafioned by thefe earthquakes and commotions,-rivers of melted glafs, and of bitumen and fulphur, ravaging the mountains, rolling their peftilential ftreams along the plains, and infecting their waters,-the fun himself darkened, not only by thick, watry clouds, but alfo by enormous maffes of ashes and ftones, ejected from the volcanos fuch are the materials that enter into this dreadful difplay; which is concluded by an unusual strain of piety, and thanks to the Creator, that he did not render man the fpectator of these terrible and tumultuous fcenes that preceded the birth of intelligent and fenfitive natures.

We come now to the fifth EPOCHA, during which elephants, and other animals of the fouthern climates, inhabited the northern regions. When the earth was ftill burning-hot toward the fouth, it was cooling toward the Poles, which enjoyed, during a long space of time, the temperature adapted to the prefervation and fubfiftence of the plants and animals that can only live, now, in the fouthern regions. Animal or living nature may have commenced its exiftence on our globe about 36,000 years from its formation, or expulfion from the fun, as its poJar regions, at leaft, were then fo far cooled, that the curious examiner might touch them without burning his fingers. To this living nature the author gives a long lease of existence, (for as the bufinefs is all ideal, liberality is eafy) even 93,000 years, at the end of which the globe will be colder than ice. But, between thefe terms, there are intermediate ones, as between the extremities of the thermometer. In the first degrees of refrigeration, when the waters ceafed to boil, animals and vegetables may have exifted, which were afterwards deftroyed (both individuals and fpecies) by the increasing refrigeration of fucceeding ages, and we find only their remains in calcareous fubftances: but the claffes of organized and animal beings, that, by their nature, are more affected by intenfe heat, could only exift and multiply in periods nearer that in which we live. It is about 15,000 years backwards from our time that our Author places, in the North, elephants and other kinds of animals, who, at prefent, can only live and multiply in the torrid zone. According to him, the quantity of ivory discovered in the northern regions, proves that they once really contained a great number of elephants; but there are many more plaufible accounts given of the existence of these animals in the North, than the wild romance of the epochas. M. DE BUFFON ob



ferves, that while the bones of elephants have been found in North America, no records announce the fame difcovery in the fouthern parts of that continent;-that the fame kind of elephant, which actually exifts in the ancient continent, is no more to be found in the other,—and that not only the fouthern parts of the new world exhibit no elephants of this kind, nor any fpecies of the other terreftrial animals which inhabit, at prefent, the fouthern regions of our continent, but, moreover, that these animals never exifted but in the northern parts of the American continent, and that while they inhabited the parts of ours that lie in the fame latitude. From hence our Author concludes that the old and the new continent were not then separated towards the North, and that their feparation has been pofterior to the exiftence of elephants in North America, where that fpecies was probably extinguished. He thinks it alfo probable that this extinction happened pretty much about the time of the feparation of the continents, and that it was occafioned by the impaffable mountains, which hindered the elephants from travelling up towards the equator in queft of warmth, as their brethren and relations had done in Afia and Africa :-fo they had a cold death, on our Author's hypothefis. However, it would coft us but little pains to find out an hypothefis, by which we could hoift them over into Africa, when the refrigeration was taking them by the tail: for that there was a continent in times of yore that joined Africa with America,—or at least a cluster of ifles, that might ferve as steppingftones to the half-reasoning elephants, is, we think, as capable of proof, as that a comet gave the fun a flap in the face, and thus, by a random-blow, formed the folar fyftem.-But let us proceed with our Author to the

Sixth epocha-which contains the feparation of the continents. This feparation of Europe from America was effectuated, as our Author imagines, in two places, by two great currents, or ridges of fea, that extend from the northern regions to the moft fouthern parts of the globe. He thinks alfo, that it happened about ten thousand years ago, much about the time that England was feparated from France, Ireland from England, Sicily from Italy, Sardinia from Corfica, and both these latter from the continent of Africa. The difcuffions of our Author, on these objects, are pleasant reading for a young ftudent of philofophical geography; for fuch are peculiarly fond of invention and conjecture. The falling in of lands, in confequence of volcanos or other caufes, has probably feparated not only the countries now mentioned from each other, but also Greenland from Scotland and Norway, as, fays he, the Orkneys, Shetland, Ferro, Iceland, and Hola, exhibit nothing to our view but the fummits of lands that have been fubmerged. Our


Author thinks farther, that Canada may have been joined to Spain by the banks of Newfoundland, the Azores, and the other islands that are scattered between these two countries. The hiftory of the Atlantis, related by Plato and Diodorus Siculus, can only be applied (fays our Author, though his admirer M. Bailli be of a quite different opinion) to a vast district of land, that extended itfelf far to the weft of Spain, and that was inhabited by powerful princes and warlike legions. He thinks, however, that the junction of America with Afia in the days of old (of which we have neither records nor traces) is ftill more probable than its junction with Europe ;-the facts and obfervations on which he grounds this opinion, are like all the rest of his proofs, vague, forced, and entirely inconclufive; but the detail into which he enters, is, in itself, neither uninftructive nor difagreeable, though it does not amount to evidence. Nevertheless, we cannot comprehend the pleasure which this genius takes in wandering always in the clouds, fnuffing up the air of poffibilities and hypothefes, and that in matters in which it is of little, often of no confequence, whether we come to a determination or not upon the point in question.

After obfervations and reafonings of great length on this feparation of the continents,-on the ftate of the Mediterranean, Euxine, and other feas, before that period, which preceded long, according to our Author, the deluges of Deucalion and Ogyges, and all the other inundations, the memory of which has been preferved among men, M. de BUFFON returns to his hobby-horle, the hypothefis of refrigeration. Among other curious things on this fubject, he tells us, that the northern regions, which were formerly warm enough for the propagation of elephants, being now fo far cooled as to be only able to provide for the fubfiftence and nourishment of white bears and rein-deers, will, in fome thousands of years, become entirely defert and deftitute of inhabitants, by the influence of the cold or refrigeration alone. There are even, in his opinion, ftrong reafons for thinking that our polar region, which is yet unknown, will always remain inacceffible; fince it appears that a glacial refrigeration has taken place at the Pole, and extends even to seven or eight degrees; all which diftrict is mere ice,perhaps, or probably, as our Author fays; and if it be fo, then the circumference, and extent of that ice will increase with the refrigeration of the earth. Suppofing now that a thousand years have paffed fince permanent ice has begun to exift under the very point or extremity of the Pole, our Author calculates, conjectures, and decides, that ninety-nine thousand years muft pafs before this ice can reign at the Equator, fuppofing the progreffion of glacial or icy cold as uniform as that of the earth's refrigeration. This calculation agrees pretty well with the dura

tion of ninety-three thousand years that he has given to vital nature, and which he has deduced from the law or progress of refrigeration alone.

The seventh and laft epocha is the creation of man, whofe origin our Author places among earthquakes, volcanos, inundations,-amidft ftorms, tempefts, and the rage and conflict of the elements and then reprefents him as arifing to civilization by flow degrees, and at length becoming a focial, polifhed, and learned being-Where? In the northern regions of Afia. But all this fabric of fcience flipped through his fingers, the Lord knows how !—It was dafhed into pieces-the Lord knows where -and the Afiatics, getting feveral fcraps of it-thefe fcraps were bandied about, one way or another, till they got into our Europe, where the best use and improvement has been made of them. The original people who erected this fabric of science, perifhed with it :-but as we have no records that intimate the exiftence of fuch a people, it is not very furprising that we fhould not know how they came to be annihilated.—M. DE BUFFON, however, talks of this people as if he had lived among them, and followed their progrefs from their origin to their extinction. If the reader has a mind to know the particulars of this people, as they exift in the heads of M. Buffon and M. Bailli, he must confult the work before us, and the Letters of M. Bailli, of which we gave an account not long after they appeared. As for us, we are weary of conjectures, and fhall therefore take leave of this volume and its epochas with pleafure, notwithstanding the beauty of the Author's ftyle, which is always enchanting, even where it betrays marks of negligence. In the volume before us there is one circumftance that must tire, if not difguft the moft indulgent reader, and that is, the accumulated repetitions of the fame facts, reafonings, proofs, and explications, which meet us full in the face where we leaft expected them, and of which we never get quit till we arrive at the end of the book.

The additions and corrections, which conclude this volume, contain a confiderable number of facts and obfervations, geographical and phyfical, defigned to illuftrate feveral paffages in the epochas of nature, and in the preceding volumes. Some of them are inftructive, and others are curious and entertaining.

II. Nouveaux Elemens de la Science de l'Homme, i. e. A New Elementary Treatife concerning the Science or Knowledge of Man. By M. BARTHEZ, Chancellor of the University of Medicine at Montpellier. Vol. I. 1778. By a mistake this work came late to our hands: but both its fubject, and the merit of its author, claim our notice. Its fubject is the vital principle in the human franie, which is, no doubt, in an intimate union with both intelligence and organization, but whofe nature and REV. May, 1780. Dd


origin form one of the moft intricate queftions in the fphere of métaphyfics. Our Author paffes in review, the opinions of ancient and modern philofophers on this nice queftion. The firft he mentions is the hypothefis of the Atomical philofophers, with Democritus and Epicurus at their head; who confidered the human foul, as compofed of two parts, the one rational, which refided in the breaft, the other irrational, which was diffufed through the whole corporeal frame; both of which parts they refolved into one. Next comes Gaffendi, who feemed to adopt the fyftem of the Atomifts, but modified it to his fancy, by fuppofing, that the irrational part comprehended the vegetative and fenfitive principles. The latter of thefe, being corporeal, he confidered as derived from our parents, and as the bond of union between the rational part and the body, while he looked upon the rational part as immaterial, created by the Deity, and by him united to the bodily frame. This hypothefis is revived by M. de Buffon, in his difcourfe on the nature of animals. Among the philofophers, who acknowledged the existence of immaterial fubftances, two fects only, according to our Author, adhered to the divifion of human nature into foul and body, without having recourfe to a third principle; fo that this third principle was admitted by a great number of philofophical and medical fects before Van Helmont, who is inaccurately fuppofed by many to be its author.

The Ariftotelians and Cartefians are the two fects mentioned by our Author, as confining their divifion of human nature to two fubitances, foul and body. The hypothefis of the former, relating to the foul and the living being, being full of obfcurity, therefore, our Author endeavours to unfold and illuftrate it; in which attempt, we shall not follow him, becaufe, after all his explications, we come to this conclufion, that the doctrine of the ftagyrite may be profound, but certainly is far from being Juminous. We do not think, indeed, that any author, known to us, has given a better expofition of the doctrine of Ariftotle, on this dark fubject, than Mr. BARTHEZ: but, after all, when we read that the foul is "the firft entelechie of the natural and organifed body, that it has life virtually, or in poffe,—that it is in the body (actually living) what form is in any body whatever, that it is not a being separate from the living body,-that it has fenfitive, nutritive, generative faculties, and a paffive intelligence, that it conftitutes animal life, and renders the body capable of receiving that active intelligence, by the union of which, with the telechie, the man becomes fufceptible of reafoning and paffions;-when we read all this, notwithftanding our real and high regard for Ariftotle, we have enough of the bufinefs. Hermolaus Barbarus, as we have read fomewhere, was fo puzzled with the entelechie, that he confulted the Devil



« AnteriorContinuar »