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and beautiful. “Oh, my dear, dear Dickens !” he writes, after the receipt of one of the Numbers of Dombey, “what a No. 5 you have given us! I have so cried and sobbed over it last night, and again this morning; and felt my heart purified by those tears, and blessed and loved you for making me shed them, and I never can bless and love you enough.” The heart that could feel so for the death of Paul Dombey had clearly lost none of its susceptibility to the charms of fine literature. But the pathos of Dombey is not the spirit of the age; and at the time when Jeffrey wrote these words, he cannot but have felt that his day was in the past, and that it had fallen to men very different from himself to do the work required by the new time.
Jeffrey, as all know, has not been the last representative of Scottish influence in British literature. He is not to be regarded as holding even the penultimate or the antepenultimate place in the series of eminent Scotchmen. Chalmers and Carlyle properly come after him ; Sir William Hamilton, in the field of metaphysics, more than maintains, at this very day, the ancient honours of his country; in Hugh Miller, Scotland has still a son, with features peculiarly her own, of whose manly heart, and of whose deeds in literature, any country might be proud; and even in Jeffrey's own field of literary criticism, have we not had, since Jeffrey's time, a totally different display of the Scottish genius in Christopher North and Blackwood's Magazine ? Scottish emphasis still reigns and works as a specific element in all British thought, all British activity, and all British literature. Nay, and there will still be stroke after stroke of Scottish emphasis till Scotland shall be no more, or till, all things having been finally and for ever co-ordinated, the necessity for emphasis shall cease. But nature abhors repetitions, and every new stroke of Scottish emphasis must tell athwart British society as an impulse different in kind from all that preceded it. And so more particularly, with whatever Scotland may yet undertake in the field of literary criticism. The Edinburgh Review, it is true, has ceased to be, in any distinctive manner, a Scottish periodical; but Scotland, we believe, may still have, and still needs to have, a periodical of her own. Let us not be mistaken; we speak in no spirit of vain ultra-Scotticism. While it will necessarily, we believe, be the function of such a periodical, with respect to England, to emphasise certain things which it is given to Scotchmen rather than to Englishmen at the present day to know and to appreciate; it will necessarily also, we believe, be its function, with respect to Scotland, to make war on the excesses of emphasis itself
, to attack bad emphasis, and to teach, by manifold allusion to what exists so splendidly in England, the beauty and grandeur of that character which accepts all things in mild and harmonious co-ordination.
Art. II.-1. The Birds of Australia. By John GOULD,
F.R.S., &c. 7 vols. imp. folio. London, 1848. 2. An Introduction to the Birds of Australia. By the Same. 1 vol. 8vo. London, 1848.
. 3. The Natural History of Ireland : Birds. By WILLIAM
THOMPSON, Esq., President of the Natural History and Philosophical Society of Belfast. 3 vols. 8vo. London, 1849-51.*
THERE is no division of the animal kingdom more richly stored with numerous and diversified species, than the class of Birds. There is none more worthy of our careful study and admiration, whether we regard the wonders of their internal structure, or the beauty of their external aspect. The chaste blending of simple and subdued colours in some, the more showy and sumptuous adornment of others, cannot but be looked on with delight: while that perfect and pervading conformity of organization to the instinctive habits of each particular tribe, so conspicuous throughout the “manifold works” of the great Creator, is in none more plainly and pleasingly exhibited than among the now almost countless varieties of the feathered race. Birds are, moreover, the only beings which please the ear no less than they delight the eye. Bees hum, oxen bellow, and dogs bark, and many other creatures—man and beast-not seldom favour us with most discordant sounds, which each perchance may deem a "joyful noise;"—but listen to the rich outpouring of the mellow blackbird's song, or that unwearied thrush on topmost branch of some aspiring tree,
* We have recently observed, with most unfeigned regret, an announcement of Mr. Thompson’s death. His removal in the prime of his days from this earthly scene is alike a deep distress to his numerous personal friends, and an irreparable loss to our knowledge of the natural history of his native country, of which he was the chief exponent, and on every branch of which it is known that he had accumulated large and most valuable materials, almost ready for the press. The work named above, on the “ Birds of Ireland,” had been fortunately completed by the publication of the third volume. He is, besides, the author of numerous papers in the “ Annals of Natural History,” and of an excellent “ Report on the Fauna of Ireland,” drawn up at the request of the British Association, and published in their volume for 1840.
Since writing the above note we have taken occasion to abridge the following particulars from an Irish newspaper, kindly transmitted to us by Mr. Thompson's attached friend and fellow-labourer, Robert Patterson, Esq., of Belfast, himself an able and well-known naturalist, author of a most excellent and useful “ Introduction to Zoology, for the Use of Schools,” and other works. Mr. Thompson was born at Belfast, on the 2d of November 1805. At an early age he became so captivated by those pure enjoyments which spring from the contemplation of nature, that he thenceforward devoted the greater portion of his time to the pursuits of natural history. Applying himself alike to the studious acquirement of recorded knowledge as contained in books, and to a searching and assiduous investigation of the great “ Biblia Naturæ,” he eventually became both a thorough master of the one, and a most skilful interpreter of the other. With the leading naturalists of the day he kept up a constant correspondence, and from time to time he published the results of his own investigations in various scientific journals. The principal writers on the natural history of the British Islands acknowledged themselves indebted to Mr. Thompson for most of their information regarding Ireland. He was a zealous supporter of the British Association, and cheerfully fulfilled, in succession, the duties of almost every honorary office connected with it. A continuation and completion of the “ Report" above referred to was one of those contributions which Mr. Thompson had in view to lay before the meeting of the Association to be held in Belfast, during the current year. But alas ! how vain and uncertain do we often find our prospective plans. The manuscript of the remainder of the “ Natural History of Ireland” is, we understand, in a forward state ; and we are happy to learn that the author had made arrangements for its publication, under the superintendence of two of his personal friends. Mr. Thompson had proceeded to London in the course of the present spring, to assist in making preparations for the ensuing meeting of the British Association ; and having accomplished his mission he was about to return home. But he became unwell in London, and after a short illness, his premature and most deeply lamented death took place there on the 17th day of February last. See The Mercantile Journal and Statistical Register (of Belfast), for 30th March 1852.
“Making sweet music out of air as sweet," from early morning until latest eve, and no doubt is felt that these rejoicing lays are not only cheering to the bright creatures themselves, and their beloved companions brooding unseen amid the leafy arbours, but in glad accordance with all the other harmonies of nature by which they are surrounded on this fair earth.
We need scarcely remark that Ornithology in general now presents a field so vast and varied, that the space required to exhibit even the most cursory and superficial sketch of its existing condition, viewed in all its branches, would greatly exceed the ordinary limits of a Review, even although the present Number should consist entirely of one Article, and that devoted to the feathered tribes. We must, therefore, only touch the subject slightly here and there.
The progress of Ornithology in modern times, taking a merely numerical view of the matter, may be judged of from the following brief record. The first edition of Linnæus's great work, the Systema Nature—(which if it did not originate certainly gave universality to the convenient binominal system now in use)—was published in 1735. It consisted, so far as birds are concerned, of 47 genera, containing 117 species. In the subsequent editions various genera and species were added,- the former, in the year 1766, amounting to 104, the latter to 947, Latham, the most voluminous of our own ornithological writers, scarcely concerned himself about the formation of genera, but (in 1790) he described 2951 species. More recent writers have devoted themselves chiefly to the description of new species, and the formation or indication of generic groups, justly regarding the accurate compilation of a general system of Ornithology, from the multiplied masses of the feathered tribes, and the scattered
Numerical Amount of Species.
condition of their records, as a very fearful task. Thus, the Prince of Canino (C. L. Bonaparte), in 1831, gives us 561 genera, while Mr. Swainson, a few years thereafter (1837), raises the number to 623, of which not fewer than 239 bear designations not formerly in use. The increase of species is not so easily ascertained, from the want of works professedly treating of the entire class of birds, but M. Vieillot, in 1823, indicated 3828 species, and C. L. Bonaparte, in 1831, 4099 species. It is well known that Linnæus had it not in his power, in consequence of his restricted intercourse with foreign lands, to acquire any intimate knowledge of the natural habits or modes of life of the great majority of his species, and that he placed them in approximation, as he best could, in conformity with their leading external characters. Had he known their habits of life, and connected these with the nicer organic distinctions which he-the Lynx-eyed—no doubt perceived, but generically disregarded, he would certainly not have arranged his species in so few and such far-spread groups. “ What might have been the number of his genera,” says Mr. J. R. Gray, “had he acquired the knowledge of the vast number of species which are now known, it is not easy to conjecture, except by taking his ratio of species to genera, in comparison with those now given by authors. For example, he had in his last edition, 947 species, divided into 104 genera, so that there were about 9 species to each genus. There are now known and acknowledged by naturalists about 6000 species. If we divide these into 800 genera, it will give to each genus an average of 7} species, which is not much under the number given by Linnæus.” The preceding intimation given by Mr. J. R. Gray, (certainly one of our most competent authorities,) of the ascertained existence of 800 genera and 6000 species of birds was made in 1841.* We need scarcely say that great additions have been made in the course of the ten years which have since elapsed.
When we take a survey of the attributes of birds, and consider the dimensions of the flying species, (from which we exclude the ostrich, and other Struthious kinds), we shall find, that if not the largest, at least the longest winged, is represented by the Condor of South America (Sarcoramphus gryphus). On the other hand, the smallest is a species of humming bird (Mellisuga minima), found in Jamaica. We do not happen to know the weight of a heavy full-grown Condor, but its extended wings measure nearly fifteen feet from tip to tip. The least of all humming birds is scarcely the size of a humble bee, but its wings are long in proportion, like those of a little insect of the hawk-moth kind. Both condors and humming birds are observed at great heights. The former are often seen so high in the air as to appear like scarcely discernible specks, sweeping around in great circles. The ascertained height was on one occasion found by Humboldt to be 23,270 feet; but there is no reason to suppose that that was a necessary approximation to the limit, observations in this kind having been hitherto few and casual, and the ongoings, or rather upgoings, of nature, for the most part unrecorded amid the Alpine solitudes of the Andes. If this wide-winged bird, as is likely, actually soars beyond our powers of vision, we can then, of course, only surmise to what elevation it may attain when raised so far above
* Preface to Genera of Birds, 2d edition. In a recent note from Mr. Gould, that active and assiduous ornithologist informs us that the number of British birds now known is about 350 ; of European, about 500; while the total number ascertained may be stated at 7000.
“ The earthquake-rifted mountains of bright snow." It is, no doubt, of all the living creatures upon earth the one which can remove the farthest from it. The terrestrial localities of this gigantic bird are comprised in a zone which extends from about 1000 to 19,000 feet above the sea, and the height at which it habitually soars is, according to Humboldt, six times that at which clouds are suspended over the plains of Europe. When searching for food, it descends to the plains which border the bases of the Cordilleras; and Humboldt has called attention to the remarkable physiological fact, that the same individual which breathes so easily the rarified air of the loftiest regions, should sometimes suddenly descend to the sea-shore, thus passing rapidly through all climates, and every condition of atmosphere. It was formerly believed, in connexion with experimental observations on the air-pump, that no creature could exist under so low a pressure; but it is now known that the species in question breathes as freely when the barometer would indicate only thirteen inches as if it stood at thirty.* Its most frequent haunts range from 10,000 to 19,000 feet above the sea, These lofty regions are known vernacularly by the name of Condor nests, although the female is believed to lay her eggs upon the arid rock. There, perched in dreary solitude, on the crests of scattered peaks, at the very verge of the region of perpetual snow, these dark gigantic birds are seen silently reposing like melancholy spectres. But however wild and savage may be their haunts and habits, the tales narrated of their carrying
* We may here note, in respect to Humming birds, that these frail creatures, as represented by one or other of their forms, extend from Terra del Fuego to beyond the sixty-first degree of north latitude. In regard to height, they were seen by Von Tschudi at an elevation of 14,600 feet. Fauna Peruana. Ornithol., p. 12. The West Indian Islands, and warmer portions of South America, may, however, be regarded as the central region of Humming birds in general.