Mental Improvement:

or the
Beauties and Wonders
Nature and Art.

A1v A2r

Mental Improvement:

or the
Beauties and Wonders
Nature and Art,

in a series of
Instructive Conversations.

Priscilla Wakefield,
Author of Leisure Hours.

Vol. I.

Printed and sold by Darton and Harvey,
no. 55, Gracechurch-Street 1794M.DCC.XCIV.

A2v A3r


The art of exercising the faculty of thinking
and reflecting upon every object that is seen,
ought to constitute a material branch of a good
education; but it requires the skill of a master’s
hand, to lead the minds of youth to the habit of
observation. Dr. Watts says that there are
four methods of attaining knowledge. Observation,
reading, conversation, and meditation.
The first lies within the compass even of children,
and from the early dawn of reason, they should
be accustomed to observe every thing with attention,
that falls under their notice. A judicious
instructor will find matter for a lesson among
those objects, that are termed common or insignificant.
How little this is generally the
case, may be collected from the ignorance, not
of children only, but sometimes of youth, who,
although they have attained a considerable degreegree A3v ii
of classical learning, are unacquainted either
with the materials, of those things they daily use,
or the methods of manufacturing them. The
form and appearance of substances are so much
changed by the effects of art, that it would be
impossible for a mind, unprepared by instruction,
to concieve the original material of many things,
that are in the most common use. Would any
child suppose, that the cloth, of which her frock
is made, is composed of the fibrous parts of a
green plant; or that the paper she draws upon,
is the same substance wrought into a different
form; that the transparent glass she drinks out
of, was once a heap of sand and ashes; or that
the ribbon she wears, is the produce of an insect?
The design of the following little work,
is to excite the curiosity of young persons on
these subjects, by furnishing information on a
few of the most obvious. The form of dialogue
has been adopted as best suited to convey instruction
blended with amusement; being desirous
that it should be read rather from choice
than compulsion, and be sought by my young
readers as an entertainment, not shunned as a
mere dry preceptive lesson.

A4r B1v

The Persons,

Mr. Harcourt.

Mrs. Harcourt.

Sophia, aged sixteen.

Cecilia, aged twelve.

Augusta, an occasional visitor,
aged twelve.

Charles, aged fifteen.

Henry, aged nine.


Mental Improvement;
in a Series of
Instructive Conversations.

Conversation I.

Sophia and Cecilia.

How happy are we, my dear sister, to
be blessed with such parents, who devote
so much time to our instruction and
amusement; with what tenderness do they
listen to our conversation, and improve
every subject that arises to our advantage!

B2 Cecilia. B2v 4

I am never so happy in any other company;
they have the art of rendering instruction
and study agreeable. Though I tenderly
love my governess, I feel such a superior
attachment to my mamma, that I am
not able to express it; and I am sure Mrs.
will not blame me for it, for she always
advises me to look up to my father
and mother as my best and kindest friends.

Mrs. Selwyn, our worthy governess is
too wise and discreet to be jealous of our
preferring our parents to every body, she
would sooner direct us to regulate our affections
properly, and undoubtedly give
them the first place.

What bitter repentance do I feel, when
I have done anything to offend them, particularly
when I am inattentive to their
instruction. How comes it, Sophia, that I am B3r 5
I am so often idle, and my thoughts wander
from what I am about, when I really
intend to be good?

You are very young, my dear, and
mamma says that the habit of attention is
difficult to form; but that by steadily endeavouring
to fix our thoughts on one
object we shall every day find it more easy,
and though it may cost us some pains
at first, let us remember, what we owe to
the affectionate care of such a mother,
and give our whole attention, when she
condescends to instruct us.

I often pity poor Augusta; she has no
mamma, and her governess seldom teaches
her any thing, but her regular lessons.

I both love and pity her; she is of a
good disposition, but has not received the
same advantages that we have; her papa is B3 engaged B3v 6
engaged in business, and leaves her wholly
to the care of her governess, who takes but
little pains with her.

Let us desire our parents to give us leave
to invite her often to be present at our
evening conversations. Papa has promised
to give us some account of various manufactures;
all will be new to her, she will
be delighted, and it will be a means of
supplying her with some of the instruction
she wants.

Mamma will be very willing, I dare
say: she takes pleasure in doing good,
and is never better pleased than when she
has an opportunity of improving young

I long for the evening, when we are all
to meet in the study. I wonder what will
be the subject he will have prepared for
us. My brothers too are to be of the party,ty, B4r 7
and when we have been separated all
day, it is such a pleasure to meet them, that
I cannot say how delighted I am with the
thoughts of it.

It is almost time to attend our writing
master, and do not let us forget the terms
of admission to these ageeable evening
conversations; attention to our lessons in
the day, and obedience to the commands
of our dear mamma, are the only methods
of obtaining a seat in the study at night.
Papa will not confine the subject of his
lectures wholly to manufactures, but intends
to explain the nature of the materials
of what we wear and use, which will frequently
lead him to describe objects of
natural history, a study of which I am particularly

We are also sometimes to supply a subject,
we are to have books given us, that
we may be prepared, and are to be questionedtioned B4v 8
on the given subject. I wish I may
be able to answer properly.

Hark! the bell rings for writing; we
must attend the summons.

Conversation II.

Mr. Harcourt, Mrs. Harcourt, Augusta,
Sophia, Cecilia, Charles, and Henry.

Mrs. Harcourt.
My dear Augusta, I am glad to see you,
my girls tell me you desire to be of our
party when we meet of an evening. Your
company will be always agreeable to me,
and I hope our conversations will be instructive
to you.

I accept the invitation with pleasure;
but I hope to receive entertainment as
well as instruction; for I shall never be
able to attend a long dry lecture without2 out B5r 9
some amusement to render it palateable.

Mr. Harcourt.
I have chosen the Whale for our subject
to night, and the information it affords
I expect will be new and wonderful
to you all.

Is not the Whale found in the seas towards
the north pole?

Mr. Harcourt.
Yes, my dear, they chiefly inhabit the
seas towards the north pole; though many
whales are caught in the South Seas
towards that pole, but the chief fishery has
been near the coast of Spitzbergen, Nova
, and Greenland; where many ships
from this country go every year, for the
sole purpose of catching whales.

Mrs. Harcourt.
We may admire the goodness of Providence,
who leaves not the most obscure
corner of the globe, without its peculiar riches. B5v 10
riches. These countries, which scarcely
supply food for their wretched inhabitants,
and are covered with snow, full nine
months in the year: are visited by people
from distant parts of the world, who
brave every danger, for the sake of taking
the whales, which are found in their

I cannot think what use they can be of,
to tempt people to go so far for them.

Mr. Harcourt.
You will find that they supply several
useful articles for our convenience. Your
stays, for example, would not be so well
shaped without whalebone.

Are the bones that stiffen our stays really
the bones of whales?

Mr. Harcourt.
The substance called whalebone, adheres
to the upper jaw, and is formed of
thin parallel laminæ, called whiskers; some of B6r 11
of the longest are four yards in length;
they are surrounded by long strong hair to
guard the tongue from being hurt, and also
to prevent the return of their food, when
they discharge the water out of their

Whiskers four yards long! how fierce
the whale must look; pray what size is he

Mr. Harcourt.
The common whale is the largest of
all animals, of whose history we have any
certain account; it is sometimes found
ninety feet long, and those which inhabit
the torrid zone are said to be much larger.
The size of the head is about one third of
of the whole fish, the under lip is much
broader than the upper, which is narrow
and oblong, the tongue is a soft, spongy, fat
substance, sometimes yielding five or six
barrels of oil, the gullet or swallow is very
small for so large an animal, not exceedinging B6v 12
four inches in width; but that is proportioned
to the food it eats, which is a
particular kind of small snail; or, as some
say, it varies its repast with the Medusa,
or sea blubber, an insect which is found
in the sea.

Is not the whale a fish of prey then? I
thought it would devour men, if they unhappily
fell in their way.

Mr. Harcourt.
They are quite harmless and inoffensive
to every thing but insects. The only
danger to be apprehended from them, is
the starting of a plank in a ship, or the
overturning of a boat, with their huge

Oh terrible! what can induce men to
incur such dangers, when they may stay
quietly at home and enjoy themselves?

Mrs. Harcourt.
There are many strong reasons that prevailvail C1r 13
with thousands to undergo a life of
hardship, toil, and danger. The necessity of
earning a living, to which you, who are
brought up in the enjoyment of plenty,
are strangers, is one strong inducement.

But I would chuse some easier employment;
a gardener has an agreeable life.

Mr. Harcourt.
But do you not reflect that all men cannot
be gardeners; there is employment for
but few in that line. Providence has wisely
endued mankind with as great a variety
of inclinations and pursuits, as there is diversity
in their persons; some shew a very
early inclination for a sea-life, that no danger
can deter, or persuasions prevail with
them to give up; which appears to be
implanted for the purpose of providing the
means of an intercourse between the inhabitants
of distant countries, by which
each party may reap advantage by interchanging
the superfluous produce of distantC stant C1v 14
climes, and exercising the mutual
good offices of love and kindness. But
to return to the whale; it has two orifices
in the middle of the head, through which
it spouts water to a great height, and, when
it is disturbed or wounded, with a noise
like thunder. Its eyes are not larger than
those of an ox, and placed at a great distance
from each other. There is no fin on
the back, but on the sides; under each eye
are two large ones, which serve it for rowing.
The colour varies, the back of some
being red, others black, and another variety
is mottled; the belly is generally white.
They are extremely beautiful in the water;
the skin is very smooth and slippery. Under
the skin the whale is covered with
fat or blubber, from six to twelve inches
thick, which sometimes yields from one to
two hundred barrels of oil. All Europe is
supplied with oil for lamps, and many
other purposes, from this blubber. The
flesh is red and coarse, somewhat like beef; the C2r 15
the Greenlanders eat it, and the Icelanders
soak it in sour whey.

It must be very disagreeable food. I
should think, the oil would make it very
greasy and strong.

Mr. Harcourt.
So it does, but the poor people, who
live in countries so far north, have but little
variety of meat to tempt their appetite.
In winter, as your mother has already remarked,
the ground is covered with snow,
and affords no vegetation but a little moss,
which is found on the bodies of trees, consequently
the larger animals, such as cattle,
&c. cannot subsist there. The reindeer
is peculiar to those parts, and supplies
his master with a scanty provision
during that dreary season; but as they are
valuable for many other purposes, they are
unwilling to kill them, but from necessity;
the flesh of the whale is therefore reckoned
a dainty, which may afford us a lesson, C2 to C2v 16
to be contented with beef and mutton, and
to discourage that spirit of gluttony and
sensual indulgence, that prevails too glaringly
at the tables of the rich, who are
seldom satisfied with one or two plain
dishes, but cover their tables with a profusion,
that invites a false appetite, and
wastes the good things that are provided
for our use.

Do whales ever stray so far from their
usual haunts, as to be found on our coasts?
it would give me great pleasure to see

Mr. Harcourt.
There have been instances of a few, that
have been left at low water on shore, but
they occur but seldom; when it happens,
they are called royal fish, and become the
property of the king and queen. Notwithstanding
its vast size, the whale swims
swiftly, and generally against the wind.
The female brings but one, or at most two young C3r 17
young ones at a time, which are nine or
ten feet long; they suckle their young,
and if pursued, shew the same maternal
solicitude for the preservation of their offspring,
as land animals, by wrapping them
up in their fins close to their bodies.

Pray, does the whale yield any other
produce that is useful to man, except oil and

Mr. Harcourt.
Yes. Spermaceti is prepared from the
oil that is found in the head of a whale.
It is melted over a gentle fire, and put into
moulds, like those wherein sugar loaves
are formed; when cold and drained, it is
taken out, and melted over again, till it
be well purified and whitened; it is then
cut with a knife into flakes, and is used as
a medicine for various complaints of the
lungs; it is also used for making candles,
which are but little inferior to those made
of wax.

C3 Charles. C3v 18

I cannot imagine what means can be devised
to catch and manage an animal of
such prodigious size.

Mr. Harcourt.
No animal is so large or powerful, but
must yield to the superior sagacity of man.
The method of taking whales is truly curious,
and I shall have pleasure in entertaining
her with a recital of it.

Pray begin, we are all attention.

Mr. Harcourt.
The fleet usually sets sail about the beginning
of April, and steers northward, till
they reach about the 75th degree of north latitude,
where they usually begin to meet with
the ice. It is among these huge heaps of
ice, that float about in these seas, that they
find the whales, and there most of the vessels
fix their abode for the fishing. In the
English whale fishery, every ship has six or
seven boats belonging to it, each of which has C4r 19
has one harpooner, one man to steer, one
to manage the line, and four seamen to
row it; each boat is provided with two or
three harpoons, several lances, and six
lines fastened together, each one hundred
and twenty fathoms long. To each
harping iron is fastened a strong stick,
about six feet long, and a soft pliable line
of as many fathom, called the fore gauger,
which is fastened to the lines in the boat.
The instrument with which the whale is
struck, is a harping iron, or javelin, pointed
with steel, in a triangular shape,
like the barb of an arrow. The harpooner,
upon sight of the fish, slings the
harping iron with all his might against his
back; and if he be so fortunate as to penetrate
the skin and fat, into the flesh, he
lets go a line fastened to the harping iron,
at the end of which is a gourd, which
swimming on the water, discovers where
the whale is: for, the minute he is wounded,
he plunges to the bottom, commonly swim- C4v 20
swimming against the wind; and this is
the moment of danger, lest he should outrun
the length of the line, and pull the
boat after him into the deep; to guard
against this inconvenience, a man is fixed
by the line with a sharp knife, ready to
cut it in a moment, in case of necessity.
If the whale return for air to breathe, the
harpooner takes the opportunity to give
him a fresh wound, till fainting by loss of
blood, from repeated wounds, the men
seize that moment for approaching him,
and thrusting a long steeled lance under
his gills, into his breast, and through the
the intestines, soon dispatch him. When
the carcase begins to float, they cut holes
in the fins and tail, and tying a rope in
them, tow him to the vessel, where he is
fastened to the larboard side of the ship,
floating upon his back, almost level with
the sea.

What wonderful skill and dexterity are C5r 21
are requisite in a Greenland sailor! I
should like to make one voyage with

Mrs. Harcourt.
Your curiosity and ardour are excited
by the account your father has given us
of their expeditions, but you are not aware
of the hardships they undergo from the severity
of these northern climates.

I have been accustomed to look with
contempt on such people, as greatly my
inferiors; but for the future, I will try to
respect every body whose employments are

Mr. Harcourt.
You will do right; for a Greenland
whale catcher is a much more valuable
member of society, than an idle man of
fortune, who lives on the labours of others.
In order to take the blubber or fat, from
which they procure the oil, and the fins, as
they are called, or whalebone, several men get C5v 22
get upon the fish, equipped with a kind of
iron calkers or spurs, to prevent their slipping,
and cut off the tail, which is hoisted
on deck, and then cut square pieces of
blubber, weighing two or three thousand
pounds, which are hoisted on board with
the capstan, where each piece is again divided
into smaller pieces, of two or three
hundred pounds weight, then these are
thrown into the hold, and left for a few
days to drain. When all the blubber is
cut from off the belly of the fish, it is turned
on one side, by means of a piece of
blubber, left in the middle, called the cant
or turning piece; thus they cut out the
sides in large pieces, which they call
hockies. The next operation is to cut out
the two large jaw bones, situated in the
under lip, which, when hoisted on deck,
are cleansed, and fastened to the shrouds,
with tubs placed under them to catch the
oil which they discharge. The carcase is
left to float, and supplies food for Greenlandland C6r 23
birds, called mallemucks, &c. After
the pieces of blubber have lain a few
days in the hold, they hoist them on deck,
cut them into small pieces, and put them
through the bung holes into their casks;
one of the largest fish will fill more
than seventy butts. The produce of a good
large whale is valued at about one thousand
pounds. When thus richly laden,
they begin to sail homewards with their
spoil: when they return, the fat is to
be boiled, and melted down into trainoil.
The whale fishery begins in May,
and continues through the months of
June and July. Whether the ships are
successful or not, they must come away,
and get clear of the ice before the end of

I thank you, my dear papa, for this very
entertaining account. I shall never see a
piece of whalebone, but I shall think of the C6v 42
the labours and difficulties of the poor
Greenland sailors.

I admire the courage and ingenuity of
those who first attempted to catch whales.

Mr. Harcourt.
Probably accident discovered the use
that might be made of them, and induced
some needy bold adventurer to make the
attempt; but many must have been the hazards
and disappointments before the art
was reduced to a system as it is now.
Rude and imperfect is the beginning of
all knowledge. Perseverance and experience
have contributed more than genuisgenius,
to the discovery of things useful, to accommodate
the life of man.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Much is due to the man who first ventured
his life to procure so useful a commodity
as train oil, without which, many
must pass a long dreary winter’s night,
without even the chearing rays of a lamp.

Henry. D1r 25

But, mamma, they can buy candles.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Candles, indeed, are very useful; but oil
is cheaper, and there would not be a sufficient
quantity of tallow to light our
streets of a night. All the cities in Europe
are lighted with oil, which is a
great accommodation to their respective inhabitants.

Are there no other fisheries you can
give us an account of, papa?

Mr. Harcourt.
Yes, my dear, the cod, herring, and salmon
fisheries are very useful and extensive,
and employ a great number of hands; but
our conversation has held long enough for
one time, we will reserve them for the subject
of another evening.

Mrs. Harcourt.
It is almost supper time, and little Henry
seems ready for bed.

D Henry. D1v 26

Indeed, mamma, I am not very sleepy,
and could sit a great while longer to hear
papa tell us more about these huge whales,
and mountains of ice.

Mr. Harcourt.
I will oblige you another time. It is
too late now. Adieu, my dear childen.

Conversation III.

Mr. and Mrs. Harcourt, Augusta, Sophia,
Cecilia, Charles, and Henry.

We have all waited with the greatest
impatience for the hour of meeting. If
the cod and herring fisheries afford us as
much entertainment, as the catching of
whales, we shall not soon be tired.

Mrs. Harcourt.
I am glad to hear you were pleased with last D2r 27
last night’s conversation; it is a proof that
your minds are capable of relishing rational
amusement. An early habit of trifling is
difficult to be subdued, and should be carefully
avoided: thousands are rendered unhappy
by it; for having never been accustomed
to exercise their faculties, as they
grow up, they find every thing fatiguing
that requires reflection, and as the mind
cannot rest wholly inactive, they fly from
one trifling, useless pursuit to another; always
tired of themselves, and rendering no
benefit to others; but a well regulated mind
is marked by the judicious disposal of time,
converting even amusement into instruction.
Nature and art present so many objects,
calculated to amuse and interest, that
none but the idle need want a succession of

Pray, have the kindness to instruct me
how to fill up my time. I am often so
much at a loss what to do with myself, D2 that D2v 28
that I wish for night, to put an end to the
long day. As soon as my lessons are over,
and nothing can be more tiresome than
they are, I am without employment, and
wander about without knowing what to do
with myself. My governess says, that I must
not be troublesome to her, after I have finished
my tasks; so I have no body to converse
with, nor any thing to amuse me, but
playing about, till I am tired.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Come to us every evening; I hope our
conversations will furnish you with many
sources of entertainment for your leisure
hours. I am willing to point out whatever
may occur worthy your further attention,
and by strictly adhering to a few simple
rules, you will find the day become as
short as you wish it.

Pray give me these rules. I shall willingly
adopt them.

Mrs. D3r 29

Mrs. Harcourt.
Perhaps it will not be so easy at first,
as you imagine; ill habits are difficult to
surmount; but by degrees it will become
familiar, and in time agreeable. In the
first place, never be unemployed; read,
draw, work, walk, and accustom yourself
to observe every thing you see with attention;
consider how they are made, what
the materials are, and where they come
from. If you are unable to discover the
answers, keep a little book, and make a
memorandum of what you want to know,
and we will endeavour to give you information.
This alone will fill many an
hour, that now passes tediously away.

I thank you for these directions, and
will begin to-morrow; but I have hindered
Mr. Harcourt from beginning his account
of the cod.

Mr. Harcourt.
The cod is a fish of passage, and is found D3 from D3v 30
from eighteen inches to three or four feet
long, with a great head, and teeth in the
bottom of the throat, its flesh white, its
skin brownish on the back, and covered
with a few transparent scales. It eats excellent,
when fresh; and if well prepared
and salted, will keep a long time. Saltfish
or stock fish, commonly eaten in Lent,
is cod thus prepared. There are two kinds
of salt cod, the one called green or white,
the other dried or cured. The most essential
thing in the green cod-fishery, is the
skill of the persons employed to open the
fish, to cut off the heads, and to salt them,
upon which last, the success of the voyage
chiefly depends. The principal fishery for
cod is on the banks of Newfoundland, in
North America; and the best season, from
the beggningbeginning of February to the end of April,
when the cod, which during the winter, had
retired to the deepest part of the sea, return
to the bank, and grow very fat. Each
fisher takes but one cod at a time, yet the more D4r 31
more experienced will catch from three
hundred and fifty, to four hundred every
day. This is a very fatiguing employment,
both on account of the weight of
the fish, and the extreme cold which reigns
on the bank. They salt the cod on board.
The head being cut off, the belly opened,
and the guts taken out, the salter ranges
them in the bottom of the vessel, head to
to tail, and having thus made a layer of
them, a fathom or two square, he covers
them with salt, over this he places another
layer of fish, which he covers as before,
and thus he disposes all the fish of that
day, taking care never to mix the fish of
different days together. By the time they
have lain three or four days thus to drain,
they are removed into another part of the
vessel, and salted again; then they are left
untouched till the ship has got its load, unless
they put them in barrels for the conveniency
of room.

Sophia. D4v 32

The curing and taking of cod must be
less disagreeable and dangerous than whalecatching.
I had no idea that the catching
of fish alone employed so many men.

Mrs. Harcourt.
We are apt to use and consume the necessaries
and conveniences of life, without
reflecting on the pains and labour necessary
to obtain them. The smallest domestic
accommodation is frequently not to be
had, without the assistance of several hands;
a pin or needle, for instance, employs a
great number of workmen, before they
are brought to the degree of perfection, in
which we receive them. And the supply of
a common table, if we consider the resources
from which it is drawn, most probably
employs the time and labour of thousands;
but we interrupt your father from
proceeding, this subject may be resumed
another time.

Mrs. D5r 33

Mr. Harcourt.
In the fishing for dry cod, vessels of various
sizes are used, though such are generally
chosen as have large holds, because
this kind of fish incumbers more than it
burthens. As cod can only be dried by
the sun, the European vessels are obliged
to put out in March or April, in order to
have the benefit of the summer for drying.
Indeed the English send vessels for cod
later, but they only purchase of the inhabitants
what had been caught and prepared
before hand. In exchange for which,
we carry them meal, brandies, biscuits,
pulse, molasses, linen, &c. The fish chosen
for this purpose, though the same species
as the green cod, is yet much smaller. As
soon as the captains arrive, they unrig all
the vessels, leaving nothing but the shrouds
to sustain the masts; and, in the mean while,
the mates provide a tent on shore, covered
with branches of fir, and sails over them,
with a scaffold, fifty or sixty feet long, and about D5v 34
about one third as broad. While the scaffold
is making ready, the crew are fishing,
and as fast as they catch, they bring their
fish, open them, and salt them on moveable
benches; but the main salting is performed
on the scaffold, called flake. When
the fish have taken salt, they wash them,
and lay them on piles, on the galleries of
the scaffold, to drain again, then sufficiently
drained, they are ranged on hurdles,
a fish thick, head against tail, with the
back uppermost; observing, while they lie
thus, to turn and shift them four times
every twenty-four hours. When they begin
to dry, they lay them in heaps of ten
or twelve a piece, to retain their warmth,
and continue to enlarge the heap every day,
till it becomes double its first bulk. At
length they join two of these heaps into
one, which they turn every day as before;
lastly salt them over again, beginning with
those that had been salted first, and in this
state lay them in huge piles, as big as hayricks;ricks; D6r 35
and thus they remain, till they are
carried on ship-board, where they are laid
on branches of trees, disposed for that purpose,
in the bottom of the vessel, with
mats around them, to prevent their contracting
any moisture. There are four
kinds of commodities drawn from cod: the
zounds, which is a jelly like substance,
that covers the inside of the main bone,
and the tongues are salted at the same time
with the fish, and barrelled up for eating.
The roes or eggs being salted and barrelled,
are useful to cast into the sea, to draw fish
together, particularly pilchards; and lastly
the oil, which is used in dressing of leather;
and thus, by the art and ingenuity
of man, every part of this fish, that can be
serviceable is put to use; and by his skill in
curing and drying it, a large supply of
wholesome provision is preserved, which
must otherwise be lost. Nor is this care bestowed
on the cod alone; the herring supplies
food to vast numbers of families, especiallypecially D6v 36
the poorer sort, to whom they are
a great relef, when other provisions are
dear; but perhaps you are all tired of this
subject, and wish to hear no more concerning
the catching of fish; if that be not
the case, the herring, though a small fish,
will furnish us with wonders almost as extraordinary
as the whale.

I am the youngest of the company, and
I am not at all tired.

You surprise me by talking of wonders
concerning the herring; I have seen many
of them, but never observed any thing
in them to excite my attention, beyond fish
in common.

Mr. Harcourt.
It is not any thing remarkable in the
construction of the individual fish, to which
I allude, but to the prodigious numbers in
which they assemble, at certain seasons of
the year. About the beginning of June, a shoal E1r 37
a shoal of herrings, in bulk not less than
the whole extent of Great Britain and Ireland
comes from the north, on the surface
of the sea; their approach is known
to the inhabitants of Shetland (an island to
the north of Scotland) by several tokens in
the air and water, as by the birds, such as
gannets, &c. which follow, in order to
prey upon them; and by the smoothness
of the water. It is not certainly known
whence they come, though it is probable,
that their winter rendezvous is within the
arctic circle, where the seas swarm with
insect food in greater abundance than in
our warmer latitudes. They cast their
spawn when they arrive in these seas, for
they come to us full, and are shotten long
before they leave us. The great shoal divides
into columns of five or six miles in
length, and three or four in breadth, reflecting,
in bright weather, as they pass,
many splendid colours.

E Sophia. E1v 38

Well might you say, you had wonderful
things to relate; I had formed no idea
of shoals of fish, of such prodigious extent.
The astonishing particulars we have already
heard, make me suppose that the
sea, and its produce, would furnish us
with an inexhaustible fund of entertainment.

Mr. Harcourt.
The subject is too extensive for our limits;
the wonders of the deep have not
yet been fully explored; but the most obvious
particulars, that are not ascertained, I
shall with pleasure relate, as they illustrate
and confirm our notions of the wisdom and
goodness of that divine Being, who careth
for all the works of his creation, and has
provided for the respective wants of each.

Pray papa, what kind of fish is the herring?
I am not at all acquiantedacquainted with it.

Mr. E2r 39

Mr. Harcourt.
The herring is a small salt-water fish,
with a bluish back, and a white silvered
belly. It is commonly said that nobody
ever saw a herring alive, they die so immediately
on being taken out of the water;
but there have been instances to the contrary.
By what I have already told you,
you will perceive that the herring is a fish
of passage; they go chiefly in shoals, and
are fond of following any fire or light; indeed,
as they pass, they resemble a kind
of lightning themselves, their colours glancing
against the sun. The method of pickling
and curing herrings is simple; there
are two ways of doing it, the one makes
white or pickled herring, the other what
is called red herring. The white or pickled
herring is prepared by cutting open and
gutting the fish, as soon as it is taken out
of the water, but the melts and roes are
always left in; they are then washed in
fresh water, and left for twelve or fifteen E2 hours E2v 40
hours in a tub full of strong brine, made of
fresh water and sea salt. They are then
taken out and drained, and when well
drained, put up in barrels, disposed evenly
in rows or layers, pressed well down, and a
layer of salt strewed over them at top and
bottom. After washing, gutting, and salting
the fish, as above, when they intend to
make them red herrings, they string them
by the head, on little wooden spits, and
hang them in a kind of chimney, made
for the purpose, and when the chimney
is filled, which generally requires ten or
twelve thousand fish, they make a fire underneath
of brush-wood, which yields much
smoke, but no flame, which mostly dries
them sufficiently in twenty-four hours;
they are then barrelled for keeping. These
are the most important fisheries, and employ
by far the greatest number of people,
though there are many poor men who live
on the sea coasts, whose scanty subsistence
depends on the dangerous and precarious employ- E3r 41
employment of fishing; a little boat is their
chief treasure, in which they venture out
in rough and boisterous weather, when the
pressing wants of their family urge them
to the undertaking.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Their danger and hardships are increased,
by being obliged to struggle with rough
weather, and the storms of winter, that
being the principal season for fishing.

The sufferings of the poor are very
great on shore, in cold weather; their miserable
huts and tattered cloaths, scarcely
defending them from the sharpness of the
air, not to mention their scarcity of fuel.
I wonder how they support such hardships.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Aged persons and infants sometimes sink
under these difficulties, but those in middle
life, who are able to use exercise, support
them with less injury. Let these reflectionsE3 flections E3v 42
instruct us to feel for the wants
of others, and endeavour to relieve them,
by retrenching our superfluous indulgencies;
when should inspire us at the same
time with gratitude to the Giver of all
good, for the numerous blessings he has
allotted us, above many other of our fellow
creatures, with thankful acknowledgment.
Let us close the day, and each one
retire to repose.

Conversation IV.

I have found the subject of fisheries
so new and entertaining, that far from
being tired of them, my curiosity is raised
to hear more of them. When you returned
from Ireland, I think you mentioned
having visited the salmon fisheries; be so E4r 43
so kind as to give us the particulars you
remember of them.

Mr. Harcourt.
The salmon is a very curious fish, its
instincts and habits are well worth our attention.
The principal salmon leaps (as
they are called) in Ireland, are at Coleraine,
and at Ballyshannon, which is a
small town situated near the sea, with a
bridge of fourteen arches over a river
which, at a small distance, falls down a ridge
of rocks about twelve feet, and at low water
forms a very picturesque cascade.

Do the salmon abound in that river? it
must be very pretty to see them tumble
down the waterfall.

Mr. Harcourt.
Almost all the rivers, lakes, and brooks
in this island afford great plenty of these
fish; some during the whole year, and some
only during certain seasons; they generally
go down to the sea about August and Sep- E4v 44
September, and come up again in the spring
months; and, what is very remarkable, the
same fish always come back to the same
river, so that the owners of the fishery are
not afraid of losing their fish.

Fish appear so stupid, and void of intelligence,
that extraordinary instincts in
them strike one with more wonder than in
other animals.

Mr. Harcourt.
The great Creator has impressed certain
propensities so strongly on different
animals, that they are irresistible; and this
powerful inclination stands them in stead
of reason, which is given to man, as a
being of a superior order, to guide his
judgement and direct his conduct through
the various scenes of life.

What inducement can these fish have
for thus changing the place of their habitation,?

Mr. E5r 45

Mr. Harcourt.
Fresh water seems to be more suitable,
than the sea, for depositing their eggs and
and rearing their young. It is said that
the females work beds in the sandy shallows
of rivers, and there lay their eggs,
which the male impregnates; afterwards
they both are employed in covering the
eggs with sand, each partaking in the
labour necessary for bringing the eggs to
perfection; these in time become vivified,
and take their course to the sea, being
then about four inches long. After a stay
of six weeks, or two months, they return
up the same rivers; the salt water having
caused them to attain nearly to half their
full growth, in that short space of time.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Salmon, and perhaps many other kinds
of fish, seem absolved, by the laws of nature,
from the sedulous attention in rearing
their young, that is requisite in birds,
and terrestrial animals; their chief care is to E5v 46
to provide for the preservation of the eggs,
by depositing them in a suitable place, and
after they have performed that office, they
appear to have no farther thought about
them. Strangers to the pleasing solicitude
of parental fondness, they may with propriety
be ranked in an inferior scale of
existence to the beautiful feathered race,
whose tenderness and patient care may
serve as models to careless mothers, who
neglect their offspring, from indolence, or
a love of other pursuits.

Mr. Harcourt.
When I was at Ballyshannon, I passed
several hours in watching the fish leap up
the cascade, and it is hardly credible, but
to those who have been eye witnesses, that
they should be able to dart themselves
near fourteen feet perpendicularly out of
the water; and, allowing for the curvature,
they leap at least twenty. They do not always
succeed at the first leap; sometimes
they bound almost to the summit, but the falling E6r 47
falling water dashes them down again; at
other times, they dart head-foremost, or
side-long upon a rock, remain stunned for
a few moments, and then struggle into the
water again; when they are so successful
as to reach the top, they swim out of sight
in a moment. They do not bound from
the surface of the water, and it cannot be
known from what depth they take their
leap; it is probably performed by a forcible
spring with their tails bent; for the
chief strenghth of most fish lies in the tail.
They have often been shot, or caught with
strong barbed hooks fixed to a pole, during
their flight, as it may be termed; and
instances have been known of women catching
them in their aprons. At high water,
the fall is hardly three feet, and then the
fish swim up that easy acclivity without
leaping. Sometimes I have seen at low
water fifty or sixty of these leaps in an
hour, and at other times only two or three.
I placed myself on a rock on the brink of the E6v 48
the cascade, so that I had the pleasure of
seeing the suprising efforts of these beautiful
fish close to me; and at the bottom of
the fall, porpoises and seals tumbling and
playing among the waves; and sometimes
a seal carries off a salmon under his fins.

I knew a boy of nine years old, who
lived in Scotland, where the rivers are
remarkably clear; he saw a salmon sporting
in the water at the bottom of his father’s
garden, and jumped in. The fish was
large and strong, and struggled to escape
from his hold; but after a pretty smart contest
the boy came of victorious, and brought
his antagonist safe to land.

That must have been fine sport, I should
like to have been of the party.

This account is very entertaining; but
I want to know their method of taking
these fish.

Mr. F1r 49

Mr. Harcourt.
They are caught in weirs, which are
formed by damming up the river, except
a space of three or four feet in the middle,
which the salmon having passed, are caught
in a small enclosure, formed by stakes of
wood; the entrance is wide, and gradually
lessens, so as barely to admit a single
salmon at a time. Every morning, during
the fishery, they are taken out, by means of
a staff, with a strong barbed iron hook,
which is struck into them. But at Ballyshannon,
by far the greater number is
caught in nets below the fall; they sometimes
catch near one hunfred at a throw.
The time of the fishery is limited; and after
it is elapsed, the enclosure is removed, the
nets are laid aside, and the fish are at liberty
to flock the rivers with spawn. The
chief salmon fisheries, besides those in Ireland,
are at Berwick on the Tweed, and
along the coasts of Scotland. Vast quantities
are salted or pickled, and put up in F cags F1v 50
cags, and sent to different parts of the

Mrs. Harcourt.
There are also great quantities of salmon
brought fresh to the London markets, by
being packed in ice; which, by excluding
the air, is found a preservative to many other
things. The inhabitants of the northern
parts of Europe, the Russians especially,
preserve their fowls and other provisions,
during their hard winters, when meat is
difficult to be procured, in snow and ice.

Mr. Harcourt.
It would be tedious and unnecessary to
particularise the various kinds of fisheries
that are in different parts of the world.
Oysters, lobsters, pilchards, anchovies, and
sturgeon, are all caught in great quantities;
the three latter pickled or salted
down for use. Cavear or kavia, a sauce
much prized by the Italians, is made of
the roe or eggs of the sturgeon. All these
form extensive branches of commerce, and supply F2r 51
supply vast numbers of people with food,
who reside at a great distance from the
places at which they are caught; at the
same time, that they are a means of maintaining
thousands of families, by furnishing
useful and profitable occupation to
them; not must we omit to mention the
great variety and vast numbers of fresh
fish, that are eaten without being salted,
which daily supply our markets, and provide
us with an agreeable change of diet.
The produce of the ocean is inexhaustible;
nor is it confined to fish alone; the
bottom is covered with vegetation in many

How is it possible to know that?

Mr. Harcourt.
The sea throws up a great variety of
sea weeds. Divers also relate that this is
the case.

Can men dive to the bottom of the sea?

F2 Mr. F2v 52

Mr. Harcourt.
There are people who are very expert
in diving; but a full account of this curious
art is better deferred to another evening,
as we have not time to enter into a
complete description of the methods of
performing it.

I have heard that the Giant’s Causeway
in Ireland is a great natural curiosity;
had you an opportunity of seeing it, when
you were in that country?

Mr. Harcourt.
It was an object that I paid particular attention
to. It is situated at the northern
extremity of the island. It consists of
about thirty thousand natural pillars, mostly
in a perpendicular situation. At low water
the causeway is about six hundred feet
long, and probably runs far into the sea,
as something similar is observed on the opposite
coast of Scotland. It is not known
whether the pillars are continued under ground, F3r 53
ground, like a quarry. They are of different
dimensions, being from fifteen to
twenty-six inches in diameter, and from
fifteen to thirty-six feet in height: their
figure is generally pentagonal or hexagonal.
Several have been found with seven, and
a few with three, four, and eight sides, of
of irregular sizes; every pillar consists as
it were of joints or pieces which are not
united by flat surfaces; for on being forced
off, one of them is concave in the middle,
and the other convex, many of these joints
lie loose upon the strand. The stone is a
kind of basaltes, of a close grit, and of a
dusky hue; it is very heavy, each joint generally
weighing two hundred and a half.
It clinks like iron, melts in a forge, breaks
sharp, and, by reason of its extreme hardness,
blunts the edges of tools, and by that
means is rendered incapable of being used
in building. The pillars stand very close
to each other, and though the number of
their sides differ, yet their contextures are F3 so F3v 54
so nicely adapted, as to leave no vacuity
between them, and every pillar retains its
own thickness, angles, and sides, from top
to bottom. These kinds of columns are
continued, with interruptions, for near two
miles along the shore. By its magnitude
and unusual appearance, it forms altogether
an object of great rarity, and is mostly
visited by all strangers, who have any

Mrs. Harcourt.
This is a wonderful account. It seems
to be one of those productions of nature
that may be termed an unique. I know of
nothing similar to it. I met with a passage,
last night, in Collinson’s History of
, though not immediately referring
to the subject before us, that I cannot
resist the pleasure of repeating. It is concerning
a peculiar property of the limpet
(a species of shell-fish), that is found at
Minehead in that country; that contains a
liquor curious for marking linen. When the F4r 55
the shell is picked off, there will appear a
white vein lying transversely in a little furrow
next the head of the fish, which may
be taken out by a bodkin, or any other
pointed instrument. The letters or figures
made with this liquor will presently appear
of a light green colour, and if placed
in the sun, will change into the following
colours; if in winter, about noon, if in
summer, an hour or two after sun-rising,
and so much before setting; for in the
heat of the day in summer, it will come
on so fast, that the succession of each colour
will scarcely be distinguished. Next
to the first light green, it will appear of a
deep green, and in a few minutes change
to a full sea green; after which, in a few
minutes more, it will alter to a blue, then
to a purplish red: after which, lying an
hour to two, (if the sun shines) it will be
of a deep purple red beyond which the sun
does no more. But this last beautiful colour,
after washing in scalding water and soap, F4v 56
soap, will, on being laid out to dry, be a
fair bright crimson, which will abide all
future washing. This species of limpets
are, some red, others white, black, yellow,
brown, and sand colour, and some are striped
with white and brown parallel lines.

I should like to have a specimen of this
marking liquor. It must be the most elegant
of all methods of imprinting letters,
&c. on linen.

Mrs. Harcourt.
I believe I have trespassed upon your
father’s time by this account, but I was
much pleased with it. Cecilia, close this
conversation, by reciting Mr. Keate’s Address
to the Ocean

Address to the Ocean.

“Hail! thou inexhaustible source of wonder
and contemplation! Hail! thou multitudinoustitudinous F5r 57
ocean! whose waves chase one
another down like the generations of men,
and after a momentary space are immerged
for ever in oblivion! Thy fluctuating waters
wash the various shores of the world,
and while they disjoin nations, whom a
nearer connection would involve in eternal
war, they circulate their arts, and their
labours, and give health and plenty to mankind.
How glorious! how aweful are the
scenes thou displayest! whether we view
thee when every wind is hushed; when
the morning sun silvers the level line of
the horizon; or when the evening track
is marked with flaming gold, and thy unrippled
bosom reflects the radiance of the
over-arching heavens! Or whether we behold
thee in thy terrors! when the black
tempest sweeps thy swelling billows, and
the boiling surge mixes with the clouds!
when death rides the storm, and humanity
drops a fruitless tear for the toiling mariner,
whose heart is sinking with dismay! And F5v 58
And yet, mighty Deep! ’tis thy surface
alone we view. Who can penetrate the
secrets of thy wide domain! What eye can
visit thy immense rocks and caverns, that
teem with life and vegetation? or search
out the myriads of objects, whose beauties
lie scattered over thy dread abyss? The
mind staggers with the immensity of her
own conceptions; and when she contemplates
the flux and reflux of thy tides,
which, from the beginning of the world,
were never known to err, how does she
shrink at the idea of that Divine Power,
which originally laid thy foundations so
sure, and whose omnipotent voice hath
fixed the limits, where thy proud waves
shall be stayed!”

Con- F6r 59

Conversation V.

I have been thinking, dear papa, that
if there were as many whales as herrings,
the sea would be hardly large enough
to hold them.

Mr. Harcourt.
Providence has wisely limited the fruitfulness
of the larger animals, both on land
and in the sea, to a small number: whales,
lions, and eagles seldom bring forth more
than two at a time. We may also observe
with thankfulness, that the increase of
noxious animals are generally restricted by
the same wise law of nature; whilst those
creatures, which are useful to man, multiply
very fast. Did the birds and beasts
of prey, and huge serpents, increase as fast
as domestic animals, this globe would be
no longer habitable; we should be forceded F6v 60
to resign our places to them, and they
would become lords of the creation.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Your observation ought to excite in us
a lively gratitude for the wise arrangement
and proportion of creatures in the
universe; a striking proof of the wisdom
and goodness that governs all things. I
have been frequently astonished at the
accounts I have read of the increase of
fish. There have been found in one codfish,
3,686,760 eggs; now, supposing only
half, or even a quarter of these eggs to
come to perfection, the increase is prodigious.
Other kinds of fish multiply also
in a surprising degree, yet there is no reason
to think, that any one kind increases
beyond its due proportion with the rest.
According to what we remark among the
animals, that we have an opportunity of
observing, each has its enemy; and it is
reasonable to suppose that the same law
prevails in the sea; and that each kind has a power- G1r 61
a powerful adversary, that diminishes its
numbers, and keeps them within due

Who could have the patience and perseverance
to count such a vast number of
small eggs?

Mrs. Harcourt.
Many naturalists have taken great pains
to investigate this curious subject, but Mr.
has pursued it with more success
than any of them, by an ingenious method
of first weighing the whole spawn very
exactly, he then separated a certain number
of grains, and carefully counted the
number of eggs they contained, by which
number he multiplied the remaining grains;
thus, by the advantage of method and regularity,
he obtained the knowledge of a
curious fact in nature easily, in comparison
of the trouble he must have taken, to have
ascertained it by the tedious method of
counting the whole.

G Cecilia. G1v 62

Now I am convinced of what you have
often told me, that nothing can be well
done without order and method. I will
endeavour to be more attentive to this
point, and do every thing with greater regularity
for the future.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Order is, indeed, the best guide in every
kind of business, and distinguishes a well
taught mind, from one that is uninstructed.
It should extend to all our concerns: the
disposal of our time and money, the proportion
of amusement and business should
be regulated by some rule, and not left
to the direction of mere chance, as is too
often the case with many thoughtless people.

What a prodigious quantity of salt must
be consumed in the curing of such multitudes
of fish! I am ashamed to confess that I am G2r 63
I am ignorant whether salt be a natural or
an artificial substance.

Mr. Harcourt.
I will give you some account of the
manner of its production: you could hardly
have chosen a more entertaining subject
for our evening’s conversation. Common
salt, used for seasoning and preserving meat,
fish, &c. is one of the most useful necessaries
of life; and is of three kinds, viz.
fossile or rock salt; sea or marine salt; and
spring salt. Fossile or rock salt is found
in large beds, or strata, within the bowels
of the earth, sometimes crystallized, but
more frequently in irregular masses of red,
yellow, or blue colour.

Coloured salt! I never have seen any of
that kind, why do we not use it?

Mr. Harcourt.
All salt becomes white by grinding. There
are mines of rock-salt in various parts of the
world; they are found in Poland, Hungary,
Germany, Italy, Spain, and England; as well G2 as G2v 64
as in some other countries in Europe. I
shall confine myself to describe the manner
of procuring this kind of salt, before
I say any thing of the other sorts. The
account of the Polish mines, in the village
of Wilizka, five leagues from Cracow, the
capital of Poland, which were discovered
in the year 12511251, will furnish us with an
idea of them, that will serve for a description
of salt mines in general. Their depth
and capacity are surprising. Within them
exists a kind of subterraneous republic, or
commonwealth, which has its policy, laws,
families, &c. nay, even public roads, for
horses and carriages are kept here, for the
purpose of drawing the salt to the mouth
of the quarry, where it is taken up by engines.
These horses, when they are once
down, never see the light again; but the
men take frequent occasions of breathing
the fresh air. What astonishment must a
traveller feel, on arriving at the bottom of
this wonderful abyss, where so many peopleple G3r 65
are interred alive, and numbers of
them are even born there, that have never
seen day-light. The first thing that strikes
him with surprize, is a long series of
vaults, sustained by huge pilasters cut
with the chissel out of the rock salt,
resembling so many crystals, or precious
stones of various colours, reflecting a lustre
from the light of the flambeaux, which
are continually burning, that dazzles the
eye with its splendour; nor can he be less
surprised at observing a clear rivulet of
fresh water running through the midst of
these mountains of salt, and supplying the
inhabitants with a source of comfort and
accommodation, little to be expected in
such a dreary region. The workmen he
will find employed in hewing the rocks
of salt, in form of huge cylinders, using
hammers, pick-axes, and chissels, much as
in our stone quarries, in order to separate
the several banks. As soon as the massive
pieces are got out of the quarry, they G3 break G3v 66
break them into fragments proper to be
thrown into the mill, where they are
ground, and reduced into a coarse farina,
or flour, which serves all the purposes of
sea salt.

I remember going once with you into
a stone quarry, and can therefore easily
form an idea of it; but I am surprised to
hear that salt is so hard as to require hammers
and pick-axes to separate it.

Mr. Harcourt.
In its natural state, the masses of rock
salt are very hard; there are two kinds of
sal gemma found in the salt mines of Wilizka;
the one harder, and more transparent,
and the crystallization of which
appears more perfect than that of the
other; this is the sal gemona of the druggists
and dyers. It cuts like crystal, and
is frequently used for toys, chaplets, little
vases, &c. I think I must procure you
some specimens of them, Sophia; they will deserve G4r 67
deserve a place in your cabinet of natural

I shall value them very highly, both as
your gift, and as a great curiosity.

Mr. Harcourt.
The other kind is less compact, and
suitable only for kitchen uses. The colour
of the salt, while in the mass, is a little
brownish; and yet, when ground, it becomes
as white as if it had been refined.
Some of these masses are found as hard
and transparent as crystal; some white,
yellow, blue, and fit for various works of
taste, in which they engrave as on precious
stones. The mine is cold and moist,
which causes some difficulty in reducing
the salt into powder. They make a blackish
salt of the water drawn out of it, which
serves to fatten cattle. The salt mines of
Catalonia are found in the mountains of
the Duchy of Cordona; they form a solid
mountain of rock salt, between four and five G4v 68
five hundred feet in height, and a league
in circumference, and descending to an
unknown depth below the surface. This
prodigious mountain of salt, which has no
mixture of other matter with it, is esteemed
a great natural curiosity, and has raised
a doubt among naturalists, whether salt
does not vegetate or grow. To give you
an imperfect idea of the quantities of salt
produced annually, it is said, that one of
the Northwich pits, which is in Cheshire,
has yielded, at a medium, four thousand
tons of salt in a year. This salt is esteemed
unfit for domestic uses, in its natural
state; and therefore they use the method
practised in Poland, Hungary, and many
other places, on the coarser rock salt; they
refine it, by dissolving it in weak brine,
and then boiling it into salt again. The
works, where the rock salt is refined, are
called Refineries. The rock salt is broken
small, and put into leaded cisterns, where
it is dissolved in cold sea-water, when the solution G5r 69
solution has stood a day and night to settle,
it is drawn off from the sediment into the
salt-pan, and refined into salt in the same
manner that common salt is boiled up.
The scratch, or calcarious matter falling
from it, forms a crust on the sides of the
cistern. They are careful not to waste the
brine left in the pans after the salt is taken
out, but add it to the next quantity put into
the pan, and so on to the end of the works.
I cannot dismiss the subject of rock salt,
without mentioning the island of Toongming,
in the East Indies, which affords the
most remarkable kind of fossile, or native
dry salt, in the world. The country is, in
general, very fruitful, but in certain parts
of the island there are spots of ground, of
several acres, which appear wholly barren,
yielding not the least appearance of any
thing vegetable on them. These spots of
ground taste very salt, and abound with salt
in such a manner, as not only to supply the whole G5v 70
whole island, but a great part of the neighbouring

Have the people in this country no
other mark to find out the places that produce
the salt, than the barrenness of the

Mr. Harcourt.
When the inhabitants perceive the ground
becomes dry, and covered with white spangles,
which are pieces of salt, they are sufficiently
assured that this is a proper place to
dig for that commodity. It is very remarkable
that the same pieces of land,
which produce vegetables one year, will
produce this salt another; and on the contrary,
the salt parts will, some seasons, be
covered with vegetation. The salt work
in this island is of great advantage to the
inhabitants, and supplies all the poor, during
the season, with employment. The
men are occupied in collecting the salt, and
wetting the earth, and the women in boilinging G6r 71
up the water, which they attend as carefully
as the men. The second kind of
salt is marine or sea salt, which is made from
sea water, thickened by repeated evaporation,
and at length crystallized.

I do not understand what evaporation

Mr. Harcourt.
Heat, caused either by the action of the
sun or fire, makes the watery particles of
sea-water fly off, or disperse into the air,
and leave the saline parts at the bottom of
the vessel, which is called evaporation.
The salt, thus deprived of the water, crystallizes,
or hardens, and shoots into crystals,
such as I shewed you the other day
in the microscope. Opake stones, pyrites,
and minerals, when regularly formed, are
said to be crystallized; as well as transparent
stones and salts. Ice will give you
the idea of a complete crystallization, composed
of long needle-like masses, flattened on G6v 72
on one side, and joined together in such a
manner, that the smaller are inserted into
the sides of the greater. The crystals of
different kinds of salts afford great variety
and beauty of forms, and are curious objects
of microscopic observation. The regularity
of their figure, each different substance
producing a form appropriate to itself,
is a confirmation, that not only the
more obvious works of nature, but also the
internal structure of organized bodies, are
formed with the same harmony, order, and
beauty, that characterize the other parts of
the creation. Marine salt is prepared by
boiling sea-water. The salt-works are erected
near the sea, in order to afford an opportunity
of conveying the salt-water into
them by pipes, which is afterwards boiled
in pans of an immense size. It is necessary
to have the roofs of wood fastened
with wooden pegs, as the effluvia, which
evaporates from the boiling pans, rusts and
destroys iron in a very little time. Whilst boiling, H1r 73
boiling, they purify it with whites of eggs,
or sometimes the blood of sheep or oxen
is used for the same purpose. The saline
liquor which remains from the making
of salt, is called bittern, and is used for medicinal

Mrs. Harcourt.
I think we may observe in the process
of salt, as well as many other things, that
nature provides materials for man’s ingenuity
and industry to work upon; nay, she
supplies us with few things, that does not
require some labour to render them suitable
for our use.

Mr. Harcourt.
Nature has not only furnished us with
materials to work with, but implanted in
our minds such activity of disposition,
and thirst of knowledge as impels us to
scrutinize into the properties of these materials,
and apply them to the purposes of
life. Much has already been discovered,
more perhaps lies still behind; the field is H vast, H1v 74
vast, and may supply useful and interesting
occupation for many succeeding generations
of men. The third, and last kind
of salt, is prepared in much the same manner
as marine salt, from the water of saltwells
and springs, and is called brine, or
fountain salt. The whitest, driest, and
finest grained salt is sometimes made up
in form of sugar loves, in small wicker
baskets. In preparing basket salt, they
use resin, and other additions, to break the
grain, and render it very small; and, to
finish the process, it is dried in stoves.
Great quantities of brine or spring salt is
made in most of the inland countries, as
in Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, and
in some parts of France and England.
Lakes of this kind are found in the Podolian
, near the river Borysthenes; on
the Russian frontiers, toward Crim Tartary;
in the kingdom of Algiers; and in
other countries. Where naturnature does not
supply these lakes or ponds, artificial ones may H2r 75
may be made. This is annually done very
advantageously in France, where the chief
coasts for bay-salt, are those of Bretagne,
Saintogne, and the Pay d’Aunis. In order
to make a saline, or salt-marsh, a low plat
of ground must be chosen adjoining to the
sea, and distant from the mouths of large
rivers; and, to render it complete, it should
be near some convenient harbour for vessels.
The ground thus chosen, must be
hollowed out to three ponds or receptacles.
The first, into which the sea-water is admitted,
may be called the reservoir; the
second receptacle, which is to be again divided
into three distinct ponds, communicating
with each other by narrow passages,
and containing brine of different degrees
of strength, may be called the brineponds;
and the third receptacle, is to be
furnished with an entrance, between which
and the brine-ponds, there is to run a long
narrow winding channel, the rest of it is
to be divided into small pits, containing a H2 very H2v 76
very strongly saturated brine, which is to
be converted into salt, and they may therefore
properly be called the salt pits. The
first receptacle must communicate with the
sea, by a ditch, defended by walls; the
ditch should have a flood-gate to admit,
retain, or let out the sea-water, as occasion
may require. The bottoms of the reservoir,
or brine-ponds, are to be lined with
any kind of tough clay, or earth, that will
hold water. The proper season for making
salt in these artificial salinæ, is from
May to the end of August. When the
salt-men open the flood-gate, at the time
the tide is out, to drain off all the stagnating
water, and after repairing and cleansing
the receptacles from mud and dirt,
they admit the sea-water, at the next high
tide, till it floats the whole marsh, and
stands at a proper height in the reservoir.
In a few days, most of the water, in the
salt-pits, is exhaled by the power of the
sun, and what remains is a very strong brine. H3r 77
brine. They daily supply themselves with
more salt-water, in proportion to what is
exhaled by the sun, and the workmen draw
out the crystals, or salt, as they are formed
every day, and dispose them in a pyramidal
heap, which they cover over at the top
with thatch, or straw, to preserve it from
the injuries of the weather. Thus, at a
small expence and trouble, a salt is prepared,
very fit for all domestic uses; and
France especially, is furnished with a very
profitable article for exportation. The
uses of common salt are various and extensive.
Its acid and alkali are employed
in many chemical operations in the
arts. It is an important ingredient in the
fusion of glass, which it whitens and purifies.
It facilitates the fusion of the metallic
parts of minerals; and its peculiar
use in preserving meat, &c. and giving a
poignancy to the taste of various kinds of
food, is universally known. Common salt H3 is H3v 78
is also useful as a manure, by contributing
to fertilize the soil.

You surprise me. I remember to have
read in history, of princes, who commanded
the lands of their enemies to be sowed
with salt, that nothing might grow on
them. The Bible furnishes me with an
instance of it, when Abimelech destroyed
the city of Shechem, he ordered the
place where it had stood, to be sowed with

Mr. Harcourt.
It pleases me to observe, that you remember
what you read, and that you apply
it as occasion offers. Perhaps the error
and prejudice of the ancients arose from
this cause, that they were ignorant that
the salt is injurious, and destructive to all
vegetables, yet it increases the fertility and
productive qualities of the earth.

Mrs. Harcourt.
That is a very curious distinction, that I was H4r 79
I was unacquainted with before. It grows
late, our lecture has been rather long this

Mr. Harcourt.
It is time to separate, and as I have re lated
the most important particulars concerning
salt, and the manner of preparing
it, we will withdraw. Good night,

Conversation V.

Some gentlemen dined with us to-day,
who came from Canada, in North-
. I believe they took me for an
ignorant girl, that might easily be made
to believe any thing. I assure you, they
quite vexed me; they told me a number of
improbable stories of an animal, that builds
houses three stories high, makes bridges, and H4v 80
and I know not what ridiculous stuff. I
hate to be imposed upon, so I left the table
as soon as the cloth was removed, and
hastened here, to tell you how I have been

Mrs. Harcourt.
Sophia, what is the name of this extraordinary
animal, that has caused so much
offence to Augusta?

I suppose it was the beaver, mamma.

Ay, that is the very name; but I cannot
believe these accounts to be true.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Sophia studies natural history, she shall
give us the particulars she is acquainted
with, concerning this curious creature.

Mr. Harcourt.
Charles has been this morning to inspect
a hat manufactory, and is therefore prepared
to complete his sister’s account of
the beaver, by informing us what use is made H5r 81
made of its fur. Sophia, it is your turn
to begin.

Beaver, or Castor, makes a distinct genus
of animals of the order of Glires, and
class of Mammalia. The characters are,
that the upper fore teeth are truncated,
and hollowed obliquely, and that the lower
are oblique at the apex; with a flat tail,
and feet which have five toes on each,
and palms adapted to swimming. Under
this genus, are comprehended three species.
The Beaver or Fiber. Secondly, the Castor..
Thirdly, the Castor, called Zibethicus.

Mr. Harcourt.
Very well defined, with the method and
precision of a naturalist. Give us now a
description of the animal, and afterwards,
its manner of living and habits.

The Beaver is about four feet in length,
and twelve or fifteen inches broad; his skin in H5v 82
in the northern regions is generally black;
but it brightens into a reddish hue, in the
temperate climates. He is covered with
two sorts of hair, one long, and the other
a soft down; the latter, which is an inch in
length, is extremely fine and compact, and
furnishes the animal with a necessary degree
of warmth, the long hair preserves
the down from dirt and wet. The head is
like that of the otter, but longer, the snout
is pretty long, the eyes small, the ears short,
round and hairy on the outside, but smooth
within, and the teeth very long, the under
teeth project the breadth of three fingers,
and the upper half a finger, all of which are
broad, crooked, strong and sharp; besides
those teeth, which are called incisors, which
grow double, are set very deep in their
jaws, and bend like the edge of an axe;
they have sixteen grinders, eight on each
side, four above, and four below, directly
opposite to each other. With the former,
they are able to cut down trees of a considerablesiderable H6r 83
size; with the latter, to break the
hardest substances; the legs are short, the
fore-legs not exceeding four or five inches
in length, the fore-paws are formed something
like the human hand. These feet serve
the beaver to dig, soften, and work the
clay for different purposes, the hind feet
are furnished with membranes, or large
skins, extending between the toes, like
those of ducks, and other water-fowl; the
tail is long, a little flat, entirely covered
with scales, supplied with muscles, and perpetually
moistened with oil or fat, which
the creature distributes all over them with
his snout, and which he procures from four
bags, which are placed under the intestines,
and are found in every beaver, whether
male or female. These bags are filled
with a resinous liquid substance, which,
when it is ejected, settles into a thick consistence.
Physicians call it castoreum, and
prescribe it as an excellent remedy against
poisons, vapours, and other maladies; but when H6v 84
when it grows old, it blackens, and degenerates
into a dangerous poison.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Before Sophia relates the manners and
occupations of this creature, let us give particular
attention to the implements nature
has furnished it with. The form and
strength of the teeth are suited to cutting
of wood and hard substances, and we have
already been told that with these they are
able to fell trees; the fore-paws are adapted
to handling and disposing the materials
of the work; the hind-feet are formed for
swimming, and evidently shew that the
creature is intended to live in both elements,
and is what is called an amphibious
animal; the tail, from its flatness, and the
hardness of its scales, may serve very well
for a hod, such as bricklayers use for carrying
mortar, &c. And now, Augusta, do you
think it totally improbable, that a creature
furnished with such tools, and endued with
a proportionable degree of sagacity to use them, I1r 85
them, should be able to construct houses of
three stories, or build bridges, &c.?

Indeed I begin to be staggered; but is
this really the case? Pray Sophia go on, for
I am impatient to hear what you have to
tell us about it.

When they are going to chuse a place
to build a habitation, they assemble in
companies sometimes of two or three hundred,
and after mature deliberation, fix on
a spot where plenty of provisions, and all
necessaries may be found. Their houses
are always situated in the water, and when
they can find neither lake nor pond adjacent,
they endeavour to supply the defect,
by stopping the current of some brook or
small river, by means of a causey or dam;
for this purpose they set about felling of
trees, which several of them together effect
pretty easily, with their strong teeth;
they take care to chuse out those that grow I above I1v 86
above the place where they intend to build,
that they may swim doen the current. They
also, with wonderful sagacity, contrive that
they shall fall towards the water, that they
may have the less way to carry them. After
the tree is felled, they cut it into proper
lengths, and then roll them into the water, and
navigate them towards the place where they
are to be used. The causey, raised with
these pieces of wood, is sometimes ten or
a dozen feet in thickness at the foundation;
it descends in a slope on the side
next the water. The opposite side is raised
perpendicularly like our walls, and the
slope, which at its base, is twelve feet
broad, diminishes towards the top to the
breadth of two feet. They drive the extremities
of these pieces of wood very near
each other, into the earth, and interlace
them with other stakes more slender and
supple. But as the water, without some
other prevention, would glide through the
cavities and leave the resevoir dry, they have I2r 87
have recourse to a clay, which they perfectly
well know how to procure, and
which they work up into a kind of mortar
with their tails, and close up the interstices
with it, both within and without, and this
entirely secures the water from passing
away. If the violence of the water, or the
footsteps of hunters, who pass over their
work, damage it, they immediately set
about repairing it. They build their cabins,
either on piles in the middle of the
small lakes, they have thus formed, on the
bank of a river, or at the extremity of some
point of land, that advances into a lake.
The figure of them is round or oval, divided
into three partitions, raised one above
another. The first is sunk below the level
of the dike, and is generally full of water,
the other two stories are built above it.
The whole edifice is mostly capable of
containing eight or ten inhabitants. Each
beaver has his peculiar cell assigned him,
the floor of which he strews with leaves, I2 or I2v 88
or small branches of the pine tree, so as to
render it clean and comfortable. Their
works, especially in the cold regions, are
completed in August or September; after
which they furnish themselves with a store
of provisions. During the summer, they
regale upon all the fruits and plants the
country produces. In the winter they eat the
woods of the ask, the plane, and other trees,
which they steep in water, in quantities
proportionable to their consumption, and
they are supplied with a double stomach,
to facilitate the digestion of such solid food
at two operations. They cut twigs from
three to six feet in length, the larger ones
are conveyed by several beavers to the magazine,
and the smaller by a single animal,
but they take different ways. Each individual
has his walk assigned him, to prevent
the labourers from being interrupted in
their respective occupations. These parcels
of wood are not piled up in one continued
heap, but laid across one another with intersticesterstices I3r 89
between them, that they may the
easier draw out what quantity they want;
and they always take the parcel at the bottom.
They cut this wood into small pieces,
and convey it to their cell, where the
whole family come to receive their share.
Sometimes they wander in the woods,
and regale their young with a fresh collation.
The hunters, who know that these
creatures love green wood, better than old,
place a parcel of the former about their
lodge, and then have several devices to ensnare
them. When the winter grows severe,
they sometimes break the ice, and
when the beavers come to the opening for
air, they kill them with hatchets, or make
a large aperture in the ice, and cover it
with a very strong net, and then overturn
the lodge, upon which the beavers thinking
to escape in their usual way, by flying
to the water, and emerging at the hole
in the ice, fall into the snare, and are

I3 Cecilia. I3v 90

Poor creatures! what can induce any
body to be so cruel, as to ensnare and
destroy such ingenious and industrious

Mr. Harcourt.
Profit. The hunters in America catch
vast numbers of them every year, for the
sake of their skins, and bags of castor, which
they bring to the merchants, who send
them to Europe.

Pray what use do they make of their

Mr. Harcourt.
I leave Charles to answer that question.

Men’s hats are made of the fur of the
Beaver. Women are employed by the
hatters, to clear the skins of the hair; for
which purpose they use two knives; a large
one, like a shoe-maker’s knife, for the long
hair; and a smaller, not unlike a vine knife, to I4r 91
to shave or scrape off the short hair or
down. When the hair is off, they mix
the stuff, putting to one third of dry castor,
two thirds of old coat, a term they use for
the hair of those skins, which have been
worn some time by the savages, and by
that means is become finer than the rest.
After it is mixed, they card it; which is
pulling it smooth and even, between two
things resembling a curry comb, with fine
teeth: such as are used to card wool with,
before it is spun. They then take a proper
quantity of this fluff for a hat, and put
it upon the hurdle, which is a square table
with chinks cut through it lengthwise,
then the workman takes an instrument
called a bow, very like a fiddle-stick, and
works the fur, till it mixes well together,
the dirt and filth passing through the chinks.
In this manner they form two gores or
pieces of an oval form, ending in a sharp
corner at top. These pieces, or capades,
as they are called, being formed in this manner, I4v 92
manner, they proceed to harden them into
closer, and more consistent flakes, by pressing
them with a hardening skin or leather;
they are then caried to the bason, which
is a sort of bench, with an iron plate fitted
in it, and a little fire underneath it, upon
which they lay one of the capades, sprinkled
with water, and make use of a sort of
mould to form it; when, by means of the
heat of the fire, the water, and pressing,
the substance thickens into a slight hairy
sort of felt or stuff. After they have turned
up the edges all round the mould, they
lay it by, and proceed in the same manner
with the other half. The next thing is to
join the two pieces together, so as to meet
in a point at the top, and form a high
crowned cap. The hat thus basoned, is removed
to a large receiver or trough, which
is a kind of copper kettle, of a peculiar
shape, filled with hot water and grounds,
after dipping the hat in the kettle, they
begin to work it, by rolling and unrolling it I5r 93
it again and again, first with their hands,
and then with a little wooden roller, dipping
it frequently in the kettle, till by
fulling and thickening it in this manner for
four or five hours, it is brought into the
size of the hat intended; they form the
crown by laying the high crowned cap on
a wooden block of a proper size, and tying
it round with a packthread, called a commander,
which they gradually push down
to the bottom of the block, with a piece
of iron properly bent, which they call a
stamper. When the hat is dried, they singe
it, and rub it with pumice, to take off the
coarser knap, it is afterwards rubbed with
seal-skin, and lastly carded with a fine

Mr. Harcourt.
You have given us a very clear account
of what you saw this morning; but pray
tell us, whether something is not to be done
to colour and stiffen the hat.

Charles I5v 94

O yes! the hat is sent upon the block to
the dyers, who makes a dye of logwood,
verdigrease, copperas, and alder-bark, and
fills his copper with it, which is mostly
large enough to hold ten or twelve dozen
of hats at a time. He boils the hats in this
dye for near an hour, then sets them out
to cool, and boils them again ten or more
times over, till the dye is complete; it is
now returned to the hatter, who dries it
thoroughly over a charcoal fire, and then
smears it with glue, or gum senegal, dissolved
to stiffen it. The next thing is to
steam it on the steaming-bason, which is a
little hearth or fire-place, covered over
with an iron plate that exactly fits it; on
this plate, wet cloths are spread to prevent
the hat from burning, the hat is placed
brim downwards on it, and rubbed gently
with the hand, till sufficiently steamed and
dried, it is then put again upon the block,
and brushed and ironed with flat-irons, such I6r 95
such as are used for ironing linen, which
smoothens and polishes it, and nothing
now remains to be done, but to clip the
edges, and sew a lining into the crown.

Mrs. Harcourt.
I thank you in the name of the company
for the entertainment you have given
us, and cannot help observing the wisdom
of Providence that has so wonderfully suited
the formation and instincts of the beaver
to its wants, and appointed manner of

I am all astonishment and wonder; and
for the future, shall be more ready to listen
to extraordinary things with attention; but
I thought it foolish to give credit to any
thing that seemed so improbable.

Mrs. Harcourt.
There is a material difference between
credulously assenting to every thing we
hear without examination; and listening attentively
to the relations of people of sense and I6v 96
and credit, who have no motive for imposing
upon us; and, who, if we have patience,
will probably give good reasons for
what they assert; but it is a mark of ignorance
to believe every thing implicitly.
Much depends upon the degree of credit
due to the character of the person who relates
the circumstance: but there are such
wonders in both nature and art, that till they
are explained, may well appear improbable to
the uninformed mind; this reflection should
incite us to pursue the attainment of useful
knowledge by attending to the conversation
of people of experience and information.

Mr. Harcourt.
Conversation is an agreeable means of
instruction: and those people, who by a
habit of attention and observation, collect
knowledge wherever it is to be found, may
meet with it from the most clownish rustic,
or unlettered mechanic. Never despise any
body as too mean to learn from; but talk to K1r 97
to every one in his own way; that is, on the
subject of his profession or calling, and you
may with certainty rely upon gaining information.

Mrs. Harcourt.
We have passed the time so pleasantly,
that we have not been aware how late it
is; it is time to take leave. Children,

Conversation VI.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Business prevents your father from his
usual attendance, therefore we must find
something to entertain ourselves with;
cannot we contrive some game or play to
amuse us?

If you please, mamma, we will play
at questions, in the manner Miss Groves K shewed K1v 98
shewed us. You must propose a question,
which each of us must try to answer in
turn. Whoever gives a proper reply gains a

What shall the prizes be?

They need not be of any great value,
some trifle for the sake of the play.

Mrs. Harcourt.
I received a present yesterday, of some
shells and fossile productions, it will give
me pleasure to distribute them among you;
they will just suit the purpose. Sophia,
you will find them in my cabinet: bring
them, and dispose them in equal parcels.

What beautiful tints! what colours can
equal these? Shells, flowers, and insects
are the finishings of nature, and for elegance
of form, variety, and beauty of colour,
as well as delicacy of texture, excel
the finest works of art.

Mrs. K2r 99

Mrs. Harcourt.
They will serve two purposes. The
one as prizes for your answers, the other as
a subject for my first question. What is a

A shell is a house for a snail, or a small
fish to live in.

Mrs. Harcourt.
A prize belongs to Henry for his answer,
as it is certain that shells furnish a
case or covering, or if you please a habitation,
for the insects that dwell in them;
they also serve them as a defence, or coat
of mail against their enemies, or any thing
that might injure their tender bodies; but
I mean to enquire in what manner the shell
is produced.

I suppose it is a part of the animal, formed
with it as bones are.

Mrs. Harcourt.
That was thought to be the case formerly,K2 merly, K2v 100
but the discoveries of M. Reaumur
has shewn the supposition to be false;
he has proved that the shells of snails are
formed from the perspiration of the animal,
which is concreted or hardened by the air,
and it is reasonable to suppose that the seawater
has the same effect on those of fishes.
The casting of the shell of crabs and lobsters
tends to confirm this opinion.

Do they ever change their shells?

Mrs. Harcourt.
Yes, my dear, every year. The creature,
aware of what it has to undergo, retreats
to a place of security, such as the cavities
of rocks, or under great stones, where
it lies till all the parts are by degrees disengaged
from the old shell. In this naked
state they make a very disagreeable appearance,
being a mere lump of flesh covered
with a sort of jelly, which by degrees hardens
into a shell, somewhat larger than the old K3r 101
old one, and thus accommodates itself to the
growth of the animal.

This is very wonderful indeed; are shells
a perfect defence to the fish that live in

Mrs. Harcourt.
I propose that as my next question, to
be answered by the company.

I suppose there is no manner of doubt,
as mamma has already told us, that they
defend the fish against many injuries; but
I read a little while ago, they are not a
perfect security against all. Shell-fish are
the food of some fish of the larger kinds,
particularly the sea-porcupine, and a species
of the wray-fish, feed chiefly upon
them. These fish are provided by nature
with a suitable apparatus for grinding them
into a state proper for digestion, their jaws
being furnished with bony substances extending
to the palate, and under part of K3 the K3v 102
the mouth, which are capable of reducing
strong shells into a pulp; but what is most
extraordinary is, that a small pectunculus
or cockle, is the prey of the soal, which
has no such instruments for breaking them
to pieces, but is supposed to be furnished
with a menstruum in the body, that has the
power of dissolving them, for on examining
the inside of a soal, many of these
shells are found in part dissolved, whilst
others remain unaltered.

Mrs. Harcourt.
How various are the powers of nature;
she is not obliged to perform the same
thing always by the same means, but uses
variety of processes to produce the same
effect. Into how many classes are shells
divided by the best naturalists?

A visit to the British Museum, in company
with a friend of my papa’s, who is a
collector of shells, has rendered me capable
of resolving the question: they are generallyrally K4r 103
divided into three classes. Univalves,
bivalves, and multivalves; which include
sea, land, and fresh-water shells, which are
subdivided into many genera and species.
The first class consists of shells that are of
one single piece; as a snail-shell; the second,
of those which are formed of two,
as the oyster or muscle; and the third, of
those which have more pieces than two.
Sea-eggs will afford us an example of
these, being covered with spines or prickles.
Land-shells are of two kinds, the recent
and the fossile; the recent are those which
are inhabited by living animals; but the
fossile are the remains of marine bodies,
supposed to have once inhabited the deep
seas, though frequently found in great quantities
under ground, in mines, and in places
far distant from the ocean, and sometimes
on the tops of mountains.

Astonishing! by what strange accident
could they ever come there?

Charles. K4v 104

That question has puzzled many wise and
learned men; it is generally believed that
those parts have many ages ago been covered
with sea, and some refer to the
grand deluge as the cause of this wonderful
change; they are very advantageous
to the places where they are found,
as they afford an excellent manure for

This is a convincing proof of the truth
of the history of the deluge: the account
that Moses gives us of the flood has always
appeared to me so wonderful, that I could
scarcely believe it; but I think, after this
confirmation, I shall never doubt again concerning
any thing, however extraordinary,
that I find written in the Scriptures.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Remember, my dear, that the sacred writings
contain a history of the miraculous
interposition of divine Providence, in teachinging K5r 105
mankind the most holy and pure religion,
from the earliest ages to the glorious
dispensation of the Gospel. Can we then
be surprised, that they should contain
things out of the course of nature? the very
essence of a miracle is, that an effect is produced
which can only be accounted for by
the influence of a supernatural power. In
the rude ages of gross ignorance, when the
worship of idols was almost universal, some
striking instances of a miraculous display
of divine power was necessary to convince
men, that a God existed, who had created
all things, and who governed them with
an all-seeing eye. The children of Israel
were chosen as a peculiar people, among
whom were displayed these extraordinary
manifestations of the divine Presence, that
by their means the worship of the One
True God might supplant the adoration
paid to the sun, moon, stars, animals of various
kinds, and even to stocks and stones,
by the different nations of the earth. The multitude K5v 106
multitude of fossile bodies found in places
remote from the sea are an incontrovertible
proof of some violent convulsion of nature;
and perhaps are permitted to remain as a
monument, to silence all cavillers on this
subject; but let us resume the thread of
our discourse, the vast variety of shells that
are seen in the cabinets of collectors is not
all the produce of one sea or one country.
Some of the most beautiful come from the
East-Indies and the Red Sea. The colours
and brilliancy of shells seem to be improved
and heightened by the heat of the sun,
as those of warm climates always excel
those found in cold countries in lustre.
The shores of Asia furnish us with the pearloysters
and scallops in great perfection.
Shells of great beauty are also found on the
shores of America and the West-Indies.
In Africa, on the coast of Guinea, abounds
a small species of porcelain shells, which
the natives use as money.

Augusta. K6r 107

I thought nothing could serve the purpose
of money but gold and silver.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Gold and silver are only used as a representation
of real wealth. I give you a
certain quantity of gold, in exchange for
which you supply me with corn, cattle, or
any of the necessaries of life. With the
gold that you have received, you purchase
some other commodity that you want from
a third person, who likewise barters it in
the same manner for something that he
stands in need of; thus it passes from one
to another, enabling them to exchange the
commodities of life in a more exact proportion
with respect to the value of each,
than could be done without such a medium.
Shells, or any other durable substance,
may answer the same purpose as gold, if
men agree to receive it in the same way.
The women of this country adorn their
hair, and make bracelets and necklaces with K6v 108
with another kind, which are perfectly

How droll they must look upon their
black faces and necks.

We have different ideas of beauty, Henry,
perhaps they are as well satisfied with
these simple ornaments, as our women of
fashion are with diamonds and rouge, but
we interrupt mamma.

Mrs. Harcourt.
The Mediterranean and Northern Ocean
contain great variety of shells, and many
of remarkable elegance and beauty; but
upon the whole they are greatly inferior to
those of the East-Indies. Our own English
coasts are not the last in the production of
shells, though they cannot be compared
to those of the East-Indies for lustre and

I think I have heard that there is a methodthod L1r 109
of polishing shells, mamma, will you
be so kind as to tell us how it is done.

Mrs. Harcourt.
There are various methods of polishing
shells, and adding to their natural beauty.
Among the immense variety of shells, with
which we are acquainted, some are taken
out of the sea, or found on its shores, in
their utmost perfection, and cannot be improved
by the hand of art, their beautiful
tints being spread upon the surface, and
the natural polish superior to any that could
be given: but in others the beauties are
concealed by a coarse outer coat, which
the hand of a skilful polisher may remove.
Collectors should have specimens of the
same species both rough and polished, that
the naturalist may compare the natural state
with the artificial one. How many fine strokes
of nature’s pencil in this part of the creation
would be entirely concealed from our view,
were it not for the assistance of an art that unveils,
and displays them in full lustre? A shell L that L1v 110
that has a smooth surface, and a natural dull
polish, requires only to be rubbed with the
hand, or a piece of chamoy leather, or some
tripoli or fine rotten stone may be used,
and it will become perfectly bright and polished;
but even this should be done with
caution, for in many shells the lines are
only on the surface, and the wearing ever
so little of the shell defaces it. A shell that
is rough, foul, and crusty, or covered with
a tartareous coat must be steeped for some
hours in hot water, then it is to be rubbed
with rough emery on a stick, in order to
get off the coat; after this it may be dipped
in diluted aqua-fortis, spirit of salt, or any
other acid, and after remaining a few moments
in it, be again dipped in common
water; then it is to be well rubbed with
soap-suds; after which the operation may
be finished with a fine emery, and a hairbrush;
and, many to heighten the polish,
rub the shell with a thin solution of gum
arabic, or the white of an egg; gloves should L2r 111
should be worn in using the aqua-fortis, as
it is liable to injure the flesh wherever it
touches. Some shells require more severe
treatment, which is called scaling them,
and is performed by a horizontal wheel of
lead or tin, impregnated with rough emery,
and the shell is worked down in the same
manner as stones are by the lapidary; this
requires the hand of a skilful artist to avoid
wearing away the shell too low, and spoiling
it. After the shell is cut down as far as
is proper, it is to be polished with fine
emery, tripoli or rotten stone, with a wooden
wheel, turned by the same machine as
the leaden one. These are the principal
means used in this art, and the changes
that are produced by it, are often so great,
that the shell is not to be known for the
same, for instance, the onyx or volute
is of a simple pale brown in its natural
state, and becomes a fine bright yellow,
with only just the superficies taken off, but
if eaten away deeper, appears of a milkwhite,L2 white, L2v 112
with a bluish hue towards the bottom.
In the East-Indies they frequently
engrave lines, circles, and other devices on
many species of shells, particularly by the nautilus;
but this is a gross violation of good
taste; so far from embellishing or heightening
the charms of nature, it does not even
imitate them.

When we go to the sea-side in autumn,
we may collect shells, and polish them at
our leisure hours. Among other curiosities
that were pointed out to my observation
at the British Museum, was a piece
of byssus, which is a fine cloth, used by the
ancients, when silk was rare, made of the
threads of the pinna marina, a fish somewhat
like a muscle, but much larger, and
is held in its place in the same manner, by
a prodigous number of very fine threads,
which the animal has the power of spinning
as it finds occasion, as the spider and
caterpillar do. These threads have in all times L3r 113
times been used for the same purposes as
silk. At present they are manufactured at
Palmero, the chief city of Sicily, and other
places, into gloves, stockings, and different
sorts of wearing apparel. The method of
rendering it fit for use, is by laying it for
a few days in a damp cellar to soften, then
comb and cleanse it; and lastly, spin it, in
the same manner as they do silk. By these
threads, the pinna marina, or sea-wing, as
it is sometimes called, suspend themselves
to the rocks twenty or thirty feet beneath
the surface of the sea. In this situation,
it is so successfully attacked by the eightfooted
polypus, that the species could not
exist, but for the assistance of the cancer
pinnotheris, which lives in the same shell,
as a guard and companion. The pinnotheris
or pinnophylax is a small crab, naked
like Bernard the hermit, but is furnished
with good eyes, and always inhabits the
shell of the pinna; when they want food,
the pinna opens its shell, and sends its faithfulL3 ful L3v 114
ally to forage; but if the cancer sees the
polypus, he returns suddenly to the arms
of his blind hostess, who by closing the shell,
avoids the fury of her enemy; otherwise,
when it has procured a booty, it brings it
to the opening of the shell, where it is admitted,
and they divide the prey.

This is curious indeed; that one animal
should supply eyes for another, in return for
the advantage of a coat of mail.

Mrs. Harcourt.
It is almost time to distribute the prizes.
Henry, that small lot of beautiful shells belongs
to you. Charles will take these pieces
of coral, and prepare himself by to-morrow
evening to give us some account of
what coral is, whether animal or vegetable;
and Sophia, this paper nautilus is reserved
for you. I hope you are able to give us
some particulars relative to the fish that inhabited

Sophia L4r 115

The general form of the nautilus is adapted
to swimming on the water, and resembles the
figure of a boat or vessel, but varies in some
particulars in the different species. The
name is derived from a Greek word, signifying
both a fish and a sailor. It is
supposed that men first took the idea of
sailing in vessels from what they saw
practised by this little creature. The paper
nautilus, is so named from the thinness
of the shell, which it sometimes creeps out
of, and goes on shore to feed. When this
animal intends to sail, it extends two of
its arms on high, and supports a membrane
between them, which it throws out to serve
as a sail, and its two other arms hang out of
the shell to be used occasionally as oars, or
as a steerage; but this last office is generally
performed by the tail. When the sea
is calm, numbers of these fish are frequently
seen diverting themselves with sailing
about in this manner, but as soon as a storm L4v 116
storm arises, or any thing disturbs them,
they draw in their arms, and take in as
much water as makes them a little heavier
than the sea-water in which they swim,
and by that means sink to the bottom.
When they desire to rise again, they expel
this abundant water through a number of
holes which they have in their arms, and
so lighten themselves.

Mrs. Harcourt.
The manners and instincts of those animals
that inhabit the ocean, are greatly
concealed from us by their situation, but
those few that have offered themselves to
our observation, display instances of the
same admirable wisdom that has formed
the inhabitants of the earth and air. Should
man ever be enabled, by any future discovery
to traverse the bottom of the sea,
what wonders would be opened to his view!
what numberless examples of contrivance
and sagacity, directed by the same wisdom
that has instructed the bee to gather honey, and L5r 117
and the beaver to construct his habitation,
would appear! The different contrivances
that several species of fish, whose manners
are known, discover, in the modes of catching
their prey, are so wonderful and curious,
that I cannot deny myself the pleasure
of relating a few instances. The sturgeon
is without teeth, and his mouth placed
under the head, like the opening of a
purse, which he has the power of pushing
suddenly out or retracting. Before this
mouth, under the beak or nose, hang four
tendrils some inches long, and which so
resemble earth-worms, that at first sight
they may be mistaken for them. This
clumsey toothless fish is supposed by this
contrivance to keep himself in good condition,
the solidity of his flesh evidently
shewing him to be a fish of prey. He is
said to hide his large body amongst the
weeds near the sea-coast, or at the mouths
of large rivers, only exposing his irrhi or
tendrils, which small fish or sea insects mistaking L5v 118
mistaking for real worms, approach for
plunder, and are sucked into the jaws of
their enemy. The flesh of the sturgeon
was so valued in the time of the emperor
Severus, that it was brought to table by
servants with coronets on their heads, and
preceded by music, which might give rise
to its being in our country presented by
the lord mayor to the king. At present it
is caught in the Danube, and the Wolga,
the Don, and other large rivers, for various
purposes. The skin makes the best covering
for carriages; isinglass is prepared
from parts of the skin, cavear from the
spawn; and the flesh is pickled or salted,
and sent all over Europe, as your father
told you in his account of the fisheries.
There is a sea insect described by Mr.
, whose claws or tentacles being disposed
in regular circles, and tinged with
variety of bright lively colours, represent
the petals of some most elegantly fringed
and radiated flowers; as the carnation, marigold,rigold, L6r 119
and anemone; these beautiful rays
serve them as a net for inclosing their
prey. These entertaining subjects have insensibly
led us on till it is late. Good
night, children, let us retire.

Conversation VII.

Mr. Harcourt.
Good evening to you, ladies, I regretted
losing the pleasure of joining your
party last night, but understand from Mrs.
, that you were very well amused
with the subject of shells and fossils.

Nothing was wanting but your company,
to render our evening delightful.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Delightful, my dear Cecilia, that is too
strong a word; learn to moderate your expressions,
suit your terms to the occasion; or L6v 120
or you will be at a loss to raise your language
in proportion to your feelings, when
important events excite your liveliest emotions.

How often do I forget your precepts in
this respect, although I endeavour to attend
to them; but I did enjoy myself so
very much last night, that I thought I
might say delightful without any exaggeration.

Mrs. Harcourt.
I am glad you were so well pleased;
but restrain the warmth of your expressions;
an excess in this way, may be ranked
among the follies of the present fashionable
manners; it is not only absurd in itself,
but tends to give us false ideas of
things, and induces us to consider that
as important, which in its own nature
is but trifling. Whenever I hear a girl
exclaim upon every little variation of weather,
“I am dying of heat”, “I am frozen to 2 death; M1r 121
; or melting in ecstacies at a concert
or a play, I suspect either that her imagination
has been suffered to run wild,
or that she has never been instructed to
adapt her language to her ideas. Such
excess of speech is to be expected from
novel and romance readers, but are ill suited
to a woman of good sense and propriety
of manners.―Well, Charles, we expect
our entertainment from you, to-night.
Have you been able to discover, whether
corals and corallines are to be ranked in the
vegetable or animal kingdom?

Linneus has classed them among the
zoophytes, which are a kind of intermediate
body, supposed to partake both of the
nature of an animal and a vegetable, as the
Greek words, from which it is derived, indicate,
signifying plant animal. In the
Linnean system, the zoophytes, which constitute
the fifth order of worms, are compositeM site M1v 122
animals, resembling flowers, and springing
from a vegetating stem. This order
contains fifteen genera, of which nine are
fixed, and have no power of removing
from the places where they are formed; as
the isis or red coral, sea-fan or gorgonia,
alcyonium, sponge, flustra, tubularia, corallines,
sertularia, and vorticella, but the
others possess the faculty of transporting
themselves from one place to another, as
the hydra or polype, the pennatula, or seapen,
tœnia, volvex, furia, and chaos, or the
assemblage of chaotic or microscopical animals.
The species under this order are
one hundred and fifty-six. The immense
and dangerous rocks built by the swarms
of coral insects in the Southern Ocean,
which rise perpendicularly like walls, are
described in Cook’s voyages. A point of
one of these rocks broke off, and stuck in
the hole that it had made in the bottom
of one of his ships, which must otherwisewise M2r 123
have perished, by the admission of

Mr. Harcourt.
Their prodigous multiplication in all
ages of the world is shewn by the numerous
lime-stone rocks, which consist of a congeries
or heap of the cells of these animals,
which constitute a great part of the solid
earth. Specimens of these rocks are to be
seen in the lime-works at Linsel, near Newport,
in Shropshire; in Coalbrook Dale;
and in several parts of the Peak of Derbyshire.
It is remarkable that many of those
found in a fossile state, differ from any species
of the recent ones that are known, and have
either been produced in the deep seas, where
no human eye can penetrate, or are become
exstinct. I suppose, Charles, you
can inform us from what country the best
coral comes, and in what manner it is procured.

The season for fishing coral is from April M2 to M2v 124
to July. The places are the Persian Gulf,
Red Sea, coasts of Africa, towards the
Bastion of France, the isles of Majorca
and Corsica, and the coasts of Provence
and Catalonia. Seven or eight men go
in a boat: the caster throws the net, which
is formed of two beams, tied across with a
leaden weight to press them down. A great
quantity of hemp is loosely twisted round,
among which they mix some strong nets,
and fasten to the beams; thus prepared it
is let down into the sea, and when the
coral is pretty much entangled, they draw
it out by a rope, which sometimes requires
half a dozen boats to effect. It is
used as a medicine in various diseases.

I suppose it is but lately that the real
nature of coral has been ascertained; was
it not formerly reckoned a vegetable?

Mr. Harcourt.
It was formerly ranked among the number
of marine plants, but the discoveries of modern M3r 125
modern naturalists have raised it to the animal
kingdom, since their observations satisfactorily
prove that it is the structure and habitation
of certain sea animals, and designed
for their protection and support. The
nature and origin of coral have been as
much disputed as any subject in natural
knowledge. Some have considered coral,
and the other similar productions of the
sea as stone. They adopted this opinion
from their excessive hardness, and specific
gravity, as well as from observing that
when these bodies were calcined, they were
converted into lime. Kircher supposes
that there are entire forests of it at the
bottom of the sea, which is not at all improbable,
since M. de Peyssonnel has demonstrated
by his experiments, that it is
constructed by an animal of the polype
kind. In forming coral, and other marine
productions of this class, the animal
labours like those of the testaceous kind, M3 each M3v 126
each according to its species, and their productions
vary according to their several
forms, magnitudes, and colours. The coral
insect, he observes, expands itself in water,
and contracts itself in air; or when it is
touched with the hand, or when acid liquors
are poured upon it; and he actually
saw these insects move their claws or legs,
and expand themselves, when the water in
which they were, was placed near the fire.
Broken branches of coral have been observed
to fasten to other branches. The
coral insects, not having been injured, continue
their operations, and as they draw
no sustenance from the stone of the coral,
they are able to increase in a detached state.
M. de Peyssonnel observed that it grows
in every direction, sometimes horizontally,
sometimes perpendicularly downwards, at
other times upwards. Coral then is a mass of
animals of the polype kind, having the
same relation to the polypes united to them,
that there is between the shell of a snail, and M4r 127
and the snail itself. Pray Charles, tell us
how many kinds of coral there are?

There are three kinds; red, white and
black; the black is the rarest, and most
esteemed; but it is the red that is mostly
used in medicine. There is no part of
the world where white coral is produced in
such abundance as on the shores of the
island of Ceylon, and other of the neighbouring
coasts. The lime made in those
countries for building houses, fortifications,
&c. is all prepared by burning this
coral. It lies in vast banks, which are uncovered
at low water, and it is spongy and
porous. While young, it is formed erect
in shape of little shrubs, and is then firm
and solid, with a smooth surface; but the
branches continually shoot out, and from
those new branches, proceed others, till
the whole is one confused bush, which is
all covered with a white viscous matter,
which in time hardens upon them, and becomes M4v 128
becomes coral; and this filling up all the interstices,
and hardening between them, renders
it one coarse rock.

I observed you named sponge among
the zoophytes; surely that cannot be the
habitation of insects. I have often wondered
what it is, but have never been able
to satisfy my curiosity.

Mr. Harcourt.
Sponge is a kind of marine substance,
found adhering to rocks, shells, &c. under
cover of the sea-water. Naturalists have
till lately been greatly embarrassed in which
of the three kingdoms to place it; but it is
now decidedly allowed to be of some species
of worm or polype. The same M.
de Peyssonnel
has discovered, and described
the worms that form four different
species of spnogessponges; he thinks the sponge
is formed from the juices or slaver, which
is deposited by the worms that inhabit

Henry. M5r 129

The next time I have any to rub my
slate with, I will try if I can find any of
these insects.

Mrs. Harcourt.
It will be a vain endeavour. The insects
are all dead, long before the sponge comes
to our hands; besides they are so small as
to require the best microscopes to discover

I know a lady that has a beautiful grotto
in her garden; ornamented with variety
of corals and shells. I shall observe it
with more attention the next time I visit

I wonder if any body should bestow the
money and trouble, necessary to form such
a collection, to place them in a garden,
where they are liable to be stolen, and are
exposed to the injuries of the weather.

Sophia. M5v 130

Perhaps the corals are artificial, and
ordinary shells, mixed with pebbles, and
pieces of coloured glass; the refuse of the
glass-house, would have a very pretty

Artificial coral! I never heard of such
a thing. Pray sister, how do they make

After having chosen twigs and branches
to your fancy, resembling the manner of
the growth of coral as much as possible;
you must peel and dry them. Then take
one ounce of clear rosin, and dissolve it in
a brass pan, to which add two drams of the
finest vermillion, mix these ingredients well
together, and paint the branches with it
whilst it is warm, then hold them over a
gentle coal fire, till they are smooth and
even as if polished. In the same manner, white M6r 131
white coral may be imitated with white
lead, and black coral with lampblack.

If papa and mamma will give us leave,
we will build one, near the river at the top
of the grove. I will undertake to be the
architect, and perform the rough work.

Mrs. Harcourt.
I approve the plan, and will assist in the
execution of it.

Mr. Harcourt.
I agree to it, on one condition, that it shall
not infringe upon the time of your studies.
Rise an hour earlier every morning, that
will give you sufficient opportunity for the

That will be no hardship, these beautiful
mornings; let us agree to meet at six

I am not used to rise till eight. How
shall I ever contrive to be ready?

Henry. M6v 132

I will rouse you, by ringing of the

Mrs. Harcourt.
Late rising is a bad habit, that you have
been allowed to contract; but my dear Augusta,
determine to overcome it; it will
require a litte resolution at first, but when
you consider the advantages it will procure,
I am persuaded the difficulty will
appear trifling. Health and opportunity
for improvement, result from an early
hour; a pale face, languor, and slothfulness,
are the penalties of lying long in bed. A
too great proportion of sleep is equally a
species of intemperance with gluttony and
drunkenness, and yet many a person, who
would shudder at being accused of those
depravities, freely indulge themselves in
the former, from want of consideration,
ill example, and long habit; and by that
means injure their constitution; and lose a
large portion of the active part of their lives. N1r 133
lives. Perhaps the building of this grotto
may be the fortunate means of accustoming
you to wake at a proper hour, and
when once you have used yourself to it,
you will find it both pleasant and profitable.

You have convinced me of the advantage
of rising early, and I shall endeavour
to be one of the first at the grove. Papa
has lately given me a fine pearl necklace
that was mamma’s: my governess tells me
that they are not beads, but that they are
found in oysters. I thought I would enquire
the next time we met, how they
came there, as I suppose they are no part of
the fish.

Mr. Harcourt.
Many have been the conjectures of both
ancient and modern writers concerning the
production of pearls. Some have supposed
them to proceed from a disease of the
fish, but there seems to be a great similarityN larity N1v 134
between them, and what is found in
crabs, called crabs-eyes, which are formed
near the stomach of the animal, and serve
as a reservoir of calcareous matter against
the forming of the new shell, at which time
they are dissolved, and deposited for that
purpose. As the internal part of the shell
of the pearl, oyster, or muscle, consists of
mother pearl, which resembles the material
of pearl, and as the animal has annually
occasion to enlarge his shell, there is reason
to suspect that the loose pearls are similar
reservoirs of the pearly matter for that purpose.
The fish, in which the pearls are
found, is much larger than the common
oyster, and is called concha margaritifera.
It abounds on the coast of Persia, near
Ormus, about Cape Comorin, and on the
coast of the island of Ceylon. The oriental
pearls are most valued on account of their
largeness, colour, and beauty; but pearls
are caught in the seas of the East-Indies,
in those of America, and in some parts of Europe. N2r 135
Europe. At the commencement of the
season, which is in March and April, and
again in August and September, there appear
frequently two hundred and fifty barks
on the banks; in the larger are two divers;
in the smaller, one. Each bark puts off
from shore before sun-rise, by a land-breeze
which never fails, and returns again by a
sea-breeze, which succeeds it at noon. As
soon as the barks have arrived at the place
where the fish lie, and have cast anchor,
each diver binds a stone under his body,
which is to serve him as ballast, and prevent
his being driven away by the motion
of the water, and also to enable him to
walk more steadily among the waves. Besides
this they tie another heavy stone to
one foot, in order to sink them to the bottom
of the sea: and as the oysters adhere
strongly to the rocks, they arm their fingers
with leather gloves, or take an ironrake
to displace them with. Lastly, each
diver carries with him a large net, tied to N2 his N2v 136
his neck by a long cord, the other end of
which is fastened to the side of the bark.
The net or sack is intended to hold the
oysters he may collect, and the cord is to
pull him up by, when his bag is full, or
when he wants air. Thus equipped, he
precipitates himself sometimes above sixty
feet under water. As he has no time to
lose, as soon as he arrives at the bottom,
he begins to tear the oysters off the rocks,
and cram them into his budget. At whatever
depth the divers are, the light is sufficient
for them to see what passes around
them, and sometimes, to their great consternation,
they behold monstrous fishes,
from whose jaws they can escape only by
mudding the water, and concealing themselves
by that means; although this artifice
will not always save them from falling a prey
to these formidable enemies. The best
divers will remain under water near half
an hour, during which time they hold their
breath, without the use of oils, acquiring the N3r 137
the habit by long practice; but the exertion
is so violent, as generally to shorten the
lives of those who repeat it frequently.
Besides this method of diving, there is a
way of descending in a diving bell, so contrived
as to be replenished often with fresh
air, by means of air-barrels, which are let
up and down by ropes.

The dangers that the poor diver incurs,
to obtain a mere bauble, for I suppose
pearls are only used for ornaments, are far
more dreadful than those of the Greenland

Mrs. Harcourt.
The poor men, who encounter these
dangers for a livelihood, do not consider
how trifling the value of the pearls is in
itself, but what great advantages they can
gain by the risk. Single pearls have been
sold for immense sums of money. Cleopatra,
queen of Egypt, wore one as an earring,
that Pliny has estimated at eighty thousandN3 sand N3v 138
pounds sterling. The real value of
pearls and diamonds is small, because they
do not contribute to the support or comfort
of the life of man; but whilst people of
fortune will lavish great sums upon such
insignificant things, there will always be
found people whose necessities will impel
them to obtain them at the risk of their
lives. It is time to separate. Remember
our appointment in the grove at six tomorrow

Conversation VIII.

Mr. Harcourt.
Well ladies, how have you proceeded
with your grotto? though I am not
one of the party, I am interested in your

We go on very well indeed, Charles has
drawn the plan, and mamma has given James N4r 139
James leave to help my brother to dig the
foundations; Augusta and Cecilia are employed
in sorting and cleaning the shells
and fossils; they also have undertaken to
collect pebbles, and gather mosses, attended
by little Henry, who carries a basket
to put them in; and I am very busy in
making artifical coral; thus we all take
a share. Mamma is so kind as to promise
us a present of shells and ores, and
if you please, you must contribute, by prouring
us some glass cinders, or refuse of
the furnaces from the glass-house.

Mr. Harcourt.
Most willingly shall I supply you with
that, or any other thing you may want,
to forward your design; but pray, can any
of you inform me, of what ingredients glass
is composed?

I think, Sir, you have told me that the
principal articles in its composition are
salt and sand, or some kind of stone which answers N4v 140
answers the same purpose; the salt must be
of the fixed kind, such as will not evaporate
with the most intense heat, and is generally
procured from the ashes of a vegetable
called kali, which is brought from the
Levant. The sand or stone, must be such
as will melt easily, which gives firmness and
consistence to the glass.

Mr. Harcourt.
The best stone for this purpose, comes
also from Italy, and is called tarso. But
sand is now almost the only substance employed
in the British manufactures of glass.
The most suitable is that which is white,
small, and shining: when examined by the
microscope, it appears to be fragments of
rock crystal; that which is of a soft texture,
and more gritty, does very well for
green glass. Our glass-houses are furnished
with white sand for their crystal glasses,
from Lynn in Norfolk, and Maidstone in
Kent; and with the coarser, for green glass,
from Woolwich; other ingredients are occasionallycasionally N5r 141
mixed with these, according to
the kind of glass required, such as arsenic,
manganase, lead, &c.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Sophia, you have seen a glass-house, cannot
you give some account of the operations
performed there?

There are three sorts of furnaces used
in the glass-works. After having properly
mixed the ashes and sand together, they
are put into the first furnace, where they
are burned or calcined for a sufficient time,
and become what is called frit, which
being boiled in pots or crucibles of pipemakers
clay, in the second furnace, is rendered
fit for blowing.

How very extraordinary that materials
of so gross and dirty a nature, should
ever become so beautiful and transparent
as glass! By what is the alteration occasioned?

Mrs. N5v 142

Mrs. Harcourt.
The metamorphosis, for it may well be
termed so, is caused by the action of the
fire, which when intense, vitrifies or turns
them into glass. Sophia, go on with your

The workman, who blows the glass, takes
his blowing iron, which is a hollow tube
about two feet and a half long, and dipping
it in the melting-pot, turns it about: the
metal sticks to the iron like honey: he dips
four times for every glass, and at every dip,
rolls the end of his instrument, with the
glass on it, on a piece of iron, over which
is a vessel of water, which by its coolness
consolidates the glass, and disposes it to
bind better with the next to be taken out
of the pot. When he has got enough of matter
on the instrument, he begins to blow
gently through it, in the same manner as
boys blow soap-suds through a pipe, and
in order to give it a polish, he rolls it backwardswards N6r 143
and forwards on a stone or marble:
after blowing, and whirling the iron till
he has formed the glass to the intended
shape, he delivers it to the master workman
to break off the collet, which is a little
piece that flicks to the iron. In order
to hollow it out, another workman thrusts
in an iron instrument, and turns it round
with a circular motion till it is sufficiently
enlarged. When it is perfectly formed, it
is set on the lear or third furnace to anneal
or harden; it is proper to add, that the stem,
and the foot of a drinking glass, require
each a distinct operation.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Habit and long practice, enable these
men to endure these scorching heats, which
they receive directly in their faces, mouths,
and lungs. They are always obliged to
work in their shirts, with a broad brimmed
straw-hat on their heads, to preserve their
eyes from the excessive heat and light.
They sit in large wide wooden chairs, with long N6v 144
long elbows, to which their instruments
are hung. They work for six hours
without intermission, when they are relieved
by another set of workmen, who
take their places for the same space of

Panes of glass for windows cannot surely
be formed by blowing, pray how are they

Mr. Harcourt.
The workman contrives to blow, and
dispose his glass so as to form a cylinder,
which by frequently heating and working
on a kind of earthen table, at length begins
to open and unfold like a sheet of paper,
a previous notch or incision being made
for that purpose in the cylinder of glass,
and thus becomes flat; the table of glass is
now nearly perfected, and requires nothing
farther, but to be heated over again. When
taken out, they lay it on a table of copper, from O1r 145
from whence it is carried to the third furnace
to anneal.

Pray explain the meaning of that word,
I do not understand it.

Mr. Harcourt.
It signifies to bake or harden; the first
furnace in a glass-house is heated to an intense
degree of heat, in order to fuse or
incorporate the ingredients; the second is
also heated sufficiently to melt and vitrify
the frit into a glassy substance; but the
third is moderately heated, that it may perform
the office of baking or hardening the
work, when fashioned to the shape it is to

You have explained this so clearly, that
I am no longer at a loss to comprehend

Mr. Harcourt.
There are two methods of making plates
for looking-glasses; the one, by blowing them, O much O1v 146
much in the same manner as they blow
glass for windows, but on a larger scale.
The other, casting or running of them,
which is generally practised in making large
glasses. The French claim the honour of
this invention. It was first proposed to
the French court in 16881688, by the Sieur Abraham
. It is performed in nearly
a similar manner to the casting of sheetlead,
and this method not only enables
them to make glasses of more than double
the size of any made by blowing, but also
to cast all kinds of borders, mouldings, &c.
The furnaces for melting the materials of
this manufacture are of enormous size,
and those for annealing the glasses when
formed, still larger. There are at least
twenty-four annealing furnaces or ovens,
each above twenty feet long placed around
a melting furnace. All these furnaces are
covered over with a large shed, under which
are likewise built forges and workhouses
for smiths, carpenters, and other artificers, who O2r 147
who are continually employed in repairing
and keeping in order the machines, furnaces,
&c. as also apartments for these,
and the workmen employed about the glass.
So that the glass-house in the castle of St.
, in the forest of Fere, in the Soissonois,
celebrated for its excellence in this
manufacture, appears more like a little city,
than an assemblage of workmen’s sheds.
The insides of the furnaces are lined with
a sort of baked earth, adapted to sustain the
action of fire, and the same earth serves also
for melting-pots, cisterns, &c. The cisterns
are about a yard long, and half as wide,
they serve for the conveyance of liquid
glass, which is drawn out of the meltingpots,
to the casting tables. When the
matter is sufficiently vitrified, refined, and
settled, they fill the cisterns, and leave them
in the furnace, till they appear white through
excessive heat. The table on which the
glass is to be run, is of cast iron. There
is a curious machinery to remove the cisternsO2 sterns O2v 148
from the furnaces to the table, which
places them in an inclined position, so as
to discharge a torrent of matter, like liquid
fire, with which the table is presently
covered. As soon as the glass is come to a
consistence, they shove it off into the annealing
furnace, with an iron raker as wide
as the table, being assisted by workmen on
the other side of the furnace, who pull it to
them with iron hooks.

I cannot imagine how they contrive to
remove them in that burning state, without
either breaking the glasses, or hurting

Mr. Harcourt.
The surprising dexterity and quickness,
with which they perform the different operations,
is inconceivable to those who have
not been eye-witnesses of that wonderful
manufacture. The tisors, or person’s employed
in heating the large furnaces,
run round the furnace in their shirts, withoutout O3r 149
the least intermission, with a speed scarce
inferior to that of the lightest courier; as
they go along, they take two billets of
wood, and throw them into the first furnace,
and continuing their course, do the
same for the second. This they hold on
uninterruptedly for six hours together. One
would not expect, that two such small
pieces of wood, which are consumed in an
instant, would maintain the furnace in the
proper degree of heat, which is so great,
that a large bar of iron, laid at one of the
mouths of the furnace becomes red hot in
less than half a minute. The process of
these glasses is now completed, except
grinding, polishing, and foliating, or laying
on of the quicksilver. The grinding of
glass requires great nicety, when performed
on glasses that are designed for telescopes,
or other optical uses. Plate or cast glass
is ground by placing it on a stone table, in
such a manner, that it cannot be shaken or O3 displaced, O3v 150
displaced, and then by means of a wooden
frame, another glass is rubbed backwards
and forwards over it, with water and sand
between them, and thus by constant attrition
their surfaces become smooth.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Various are the uses to which the ingenious
invention of glass is applied; be
sides the different accommodations with
which it supplies domestic wants, such as
windows, looking-glasses, and all the innumerable
variety of vessles that adorn our
tables, and contribute to our convenience.
Natural philosophy is greatly assisted by
telescopes, microscopes, magnifying glasses,
&c. which enable us to view objects too
minute ever to be examined by the naked
eye. Many experiments in electricity, and
on the properties of the air, the knowledge
of which is called pneumatics, could not
be performed without the assistance of glass.
The eye-sight of aged persons, or those
who have a defective sight, receive relief from O4r 151
from spectacles, which they must have
sought in vain, without this invention.
They were the fortunate discovery of a
monk of Pisa in the year 12991299. Nor does
it only serve for useful purposes: it also
supplies us with various kinds of ornaments.
Most of the precious stones are so
well imitated by this composition, as to
deceive the eye of those, who are not critical

Among the variety you have enumerated,
you have omitted burning glasses, which
are so contrived, that they draw the sun’s rays
into one point or focus, and are capable of
setting fire to any thing that will burn.
Some historians relate, that Archimedes,
the celebrated mathematician of Syracuse,
invented glasses of this kind, so powerful,
that they set fire to the Roman ships, besieging
Syracuse, under the command of
Marcellus, and destroyed the whole fleet.
Thus the ingenuity and invention of one man O4v 152
man was able to resist and repel the united
force of thousands, under the command of
the most accomplished general of his age
and country.

Mr. Harcourt.
Your historical anecdote is very suitably
introduced, and is an eminent instance
of the superiority of wisdom over brutal

Has not the invention of the armonica
some claim to be mentioned, before we dismiss
this subject?

Mrs. Harcourt.
I am not surprised it should be recollected
by a lover of music; but Sophia, you must
not raise curiosity without satisfying it, perhaps
some of the company may not know
what an armonica is.

The armonica is a musical instrument,
peculiar for the sweetness of its tones, and
consists of glasses, of the shape of a globe, cut O5r 153
cut in half. The whole set is fixed upon
a spindle, and then played upon by turning
them round with a wet finger.

Mr. Harcourt.
This method of producing musical sounds,
though first introduced among us by Mr.
of Ireland, has been long since
practised in Germany: and the Persians
have also a similar invention, by striking
seven cups of porcelain, containing a certain
quantity of water, with small sticks.

Among the other curiosities made of
glass, give me leave to mention Rupert’s
drops, which are formed somewhat in the
shape of a pear, of green glass, and though
they will bear the heaviest stroke of a hammer
without breaking, fly to pieces in a
moment, if you break off the tip of the

Pray what did they make windows of,
before there was any glass? I can think of nothing O5v 154
nothing that would keep out the cold, and
be clear at the same time.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Horn and oiled paper were the substitutes
they were obliged to use. Glass-windows
were not known in England till
11801180; and then were considered as a mark
of great magnificence, suitable only to palaces,
churches, &c. The Italians possessed
this art first. The French learned it
of them, and from thence it was brought
into England. Venice for many years excelled
all Europe in the fineness of its
glasses: and in the thirteenth century, were
the only people that had the secret of making
crystal looking-glasses. The glass manufacture
was first begun in England in
15571557. Glass plates were made at Lambeth,
in 16731673, under the patronage of the
Duke of Buckingham, who introduced this
manufacture into England, with amazing
success. So that in a century we have attained
the art in a degree, that rivals even the O6r 155
the Venetians and are no longer obliged
to be supplied with this article from foreign

What beautiful painted windows I have
sometimes observed in churches. There is
one in Norwich cathedral, that is reckoned
to be very finely painted, done by Mrs.
, who was the wife of one of the deans.
Papa was acquainted with her, and he says
she added many other elegant accomplishments
to her skill in painting on glass.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Remark how much better this lady’s
leisure was employed, than it would have
been in idle dissipation, or slothful indolence;
her works remain a testimony of
her industry and taste, and will long preserve
her name from oblivion. The ancient
manner of painting in glass was very
simple, and consisted in the mere arrangement
of pieces of glass of different colours,
in some sort of symmetry, and constituted 2 a species O6v 156
a species of what we call mosaic work.
In time, the taste for this kind of work improved,
and the art being found applicable
to the adorning of churches and other public
buildings, they found means of incorporating
the colours with the glass itself,
by exposing them to a proper degree
of fire, after the colours are laid on.

Mr. Harcourt.
There is an easy method of painting
small pictures on glass, called back-painting,
which requires but little skill, and produces
a pretty effect. You must take a
piece of crown glass, the size of the print
you intend to paint, a metzotinto is the best
adapted to the purpose: soak your print in
clean water for forty-eight hours, if it be
on very strong, close, hard gummed paper,
but if on a soft spongy paper, two hours
will be sufficient; then lay the print between
four sheets of paper, two beneath
it, and two above it, that the moisture
may be drawn out of it. In the mean while, P1r 157
while, let the glass be warmed at the fire,
then with a hogs-hair brush dipped in
melted Strasburg turpentine, smear the glass
smoothly and evenly. Lay the print upon
the glass, rubbing it gently from one end
to the other, that it may lie close. With
the finger rub off the paper from the backside
of the print, till nothing can be seen,
but the print, like a thin film upon the
glass, and set it aside to dry. When it is
well dried, varnish it over with some white
transparent varnish, that the print may be
seen through it, which is now fit for painting.
Having prepared a variety of oil colours,
which must be ground very fine, and
tempered very stiff, lay such colours on
the transparent print as your fancy and taste
direct; the outlines of the print guiding the
pencil, and it will produce a very pretty
effect. You must be careful to lay on the
colours thick enough to appear plainly
through the glass. When your grotto is
finished, you may exercise yourselves this P way, P1v 158
way, and each one produce a picture,
though much inferior to those works that
require the hand of an artist, yet affording
amusement for a leisure hour, and varying
the course of your occupations. Adieu,
my dear children; I wish you repose and
pleasant dreams.

Conversation IX.

May I be allowed to chuse a subject for
this evening. I want to know what sugar
is made of. I heard Mr. Jenkins say it
was a salt, and I think he must be mistaken,
for I cannot taste the least flavour of salt
in it.

Mr. Harcourt.
Chemically considered, he is in the
right. Sugar is a sweet, agreeable, saline
juice expressed from many different kinds of P2r 159
of vegetables. Carrots, parsnips, white
and red beets yield sugar, but the plant,
from which the sugar, that is generally
used, is procured, is the sugar-cane; a sort
of reed that grows in great plenty in both
the East and West-Indies. Sophia, endeavour
to give us a botanical definition
of it.

It is a genus of the triandria digynia
class. Its characters are, that it has no empalement;
but instead of it, a woolly down
longer than the flower, that incloses it.
The flower is bivalve, the valves are oblong,
acute pointed, concave, and chaffy.
It has three hairs like stamina, the ends of
the valves terminated by oblong summits;
and an awl-shaped germen, supporting two
rough styles, crowned by single stigmas,
the germen becomes an oblong acute pointed
feed, invested by the valves. It is cultivated
in both the Indies for its juice, P2 which P2v 160
which when boiled, affords that sweet salt
which is called sugar.

Mr. Harcourt.
The canes grow from eight to twenty
feet high, they are jointed, and at each
joint are placed leaves. They are propagated
by cuttings, which are generally taken
from the tops of the canes, just below the
leaves; a deep soil, and light land are most
suitable to the sugar-plant, and the rainy
season is the proper time for planting it.
The ground should be marked out by a
line, that the canes may be regularly disposed,
and at equal distances. The common
method of planting them, is to make
a trench with a hoe, which is performed
by the hand; into this trench a negro
drops the number of cuttings intended to
be planted, which are planted by other negroes,
who follow him: and the earth is
drawn about the hills with a hoe.

I fancy agriculture is not so well understoodstood P3r 161
in the Indies, as it is in Europe: or
they would make use of the plough in
these operations; as it would perform the
work both more expeditiously, and in a
completer manner, than can be done by
the hand. What length of time, and what
multitudes of hands, would it occupy, to
hoe up all the land in England, that is to
be sowed with corn every season.

Mr. Harcourt.
Horses are very scarce in the West-Indies
especially, and almost all laborious
operations are performed by the hands of
negro slaves.

Are those countries inhabited by negroes?
I understood that they were the natives
of Africa.

Mr. Harcourt.
You were rightly informed, my dear,
they are indeed natives of Africa, but
snatched from their own country, friends,
and connections, by the hand of violence, P3 and P3v 162
and power. I am ashamed to confess that
many ships are annually sent from different
parts of England, particularly Bristol and
Liverpool, to the coast of Guinea, to procure
slaves from that unhappy country,
for the use of our West-India islands,
where they are sold to the planters of sugar-plantations,
in an open market like
cattle, and afterwards employed in the most
laborious and servile occupations, and pass
the rest of their lives in an involuntary and
wretched slavery.

How much my heart feels for them!
How terrible must it be, to be separated
from one’s near relations! Parents perhaps
divided from their children for ever; husbands
from their wives; brothers and
sisters obliged to take an eternal farewel.
Why do the kings of the African states
suffer their subjects to be so cruelly

Mrs. P4r 163

Mrs. Harcourt.
Many causes have operated to induce
the African princes to become assistants in
this infamous traffic, and instead of being
the defenders of their harmless people,
they have frequently betrayed them to their
cruellest enemies. The Europeans have
found the means of corrupting these ignorant
rulers, with bribes of rum, and other spirituous
liquors, of which they are immoderately
fond. At other times they have
fomented jealousies, and excited wars between
them, merely for the sake of obtaining
the prisoners of war for slaves. Frequently
they use no ceremony, but go on
shore in the night, set fire to a neighbouring
village, and seize upon all the unhappy
victims, who run out to escape the

What hardened hearts must the captains
of those ships have. They must have becomecome P4v 164
extremely cruel, before they would
undertake such an employment.

Mrs. Harcourt.
It is much to be feared that most of
them, by the habits of such a life, are become
deaf to the voice of pity; but we
must compassionate the situation of those
whose parents have early bred them to this
profession, before they were of an age to
chuse a different employment. But to resume
the subject of the negroes. What I
have related, is only the beginning of their
sorrows. When they are put on board
the ships, they are crouded together in the
hold, where many of them mostly die from
want of air and room. There have been
frequent instances of their throwing themselves
into the sea, when they could
find an opportunity, and seeking a refuge
from their misfortunes in death. As soon
as they arive in the West-Indies, they are
carried to a public market, where they are
sold to the best bidder, like horses at our fairs. P5r 165
fairs. Their future lot depends much upon
the disposition of the master, into whose
hands they happen to fall, for among the
overseers of sugar-plantations, there are
some men of feeling and humanity; but too
generally their treatment is very severe. Accustomed
to an inactive indolent life, in
the luxurious and plentiful country of Africa,
they find great hardship from the transition,
to a life of severe labour without
any mixture of indulgence to soften it.
Deprived of hope of amending their condition,
by any course of conduct they can
pursue, they frequently abandon themselves
to despair, and die, in what is called the
seasoning, which is becoming inured by
length of time to their situation. Those
who have less sensibility and stronger constitutions,
survive their complicated misery
but a few years: for it is generally acknowledged
that they seldom attain the full period
of human life.

Augusta. P5v 166

Humanity shudders at your account; but
I have heard a gentleman, that had lived
many years abroad, say, that negroes were
not much superior to the brutes, and that
they were so stupid and stubborn, that nothing
but stripes and severity could have
any influence over them.

Mr. Harcourt.
That gentleman was most probably interested
in misleading those with whom he
conversed. People who argue in that manner,
do not consider the disadvantages the
poor negroes suffer from want of cultivation.
Leading an ignorant savage life in
their own country, they can have acquired
no previous information: and when they
fall into the hands of their cruel oppressors,
a life of laborious servitude, which scarcely
affords them sufficient time for sleep, deprives
them of every opportunity of improving
their minds. There is no reason
to suppose that they differ from us in any thing P6r 167
thing but colour, which distinction arises
from the intense heat of their climate.
There have been instances of a few,
whose situation has been favourable to
improvement, that have shewn no inferiority
of capacity: and those masters,
who neglect the religious and moral instruction
of their slaves, add a heavy load
of guilt to that already incurred, by their
share in this unjust and inhuman traffic.

My indignation arises at this recital.
Why does not the British parliament exert
its power, to avenge the wrongs of these
oppressed Africans? what can prevent an
act being passed to forbid Englishmen from
buying and selling slaves?

Mr. Harcourt.
Mr. Wilberforce, a name that does honour
to humanity, has made several fruitless
efforts to obtain an act for the abolition
of this trade. Men interested in its
continuance, have hithero frustrated his noble P6v 168
noble design; but we may rely upon the
goodness of that Divine Providence, that
careth for all creatures, that the day will
come, that their rights will be considered,
and there is great reason to hope, from
the light already cast upon the subject,
that the rising generation will prefer justice
and mercy, to interest and policy: and
will free themselves from the odium we
at present suffer, of treating our fellowcreatures
in a manner unworthy of them,
and of ourselves.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Henry, repeat that beautiful apostrophe
to a negro woman, which you learned the
other day out of Mrs. Barbauld’s Hymns.

Henry. “Negro woman, who sittest pining in
captivity, and weepest over thy sick child,
though no one seeth thee, God seeth thee;
though no one pitieth thee, God pitieth
thee. Raise thy voice, forlorn, and abandoned“doned Q1r 169
one; call upon him from amidst thy
bonds, for assuredly he will hear thee.”

I think no riches could tempt me to have
any share in the slave-trade. I could never
enjoy peace of mind, whilst I thought I
contributed to the woes of my fellow-creatures.

Mr. Harcourt.
But Cecilia, to put your compassion to
the proof. Are you willing to debar yourself
of the many indulgencies that we enjoy,
that are the fruit of their labour?
sugar, coffee, rice, calico, rum, and many
other things, are procured by the sweat of
their brow.

I would forego any indulgence to alleviate
their sufferings.

The rest of the Children together..
We are all of the same mind.

Mrs. Harcourt.
I admire the sensibility of your uncorruptedQ rupted Q1v 170
hearts, my dear children. It is the
voice of nature and virtue. Listen to it
on all occasions, and bring it home to your
bosoms, and your daily practice. The
same principle of benevolence which excites
your just indignation at the oppression
of the negroes, will lead you to be gentle
towards your inferiors, kind and obliging
to your equals, and in a particular manner
condescending and considerate towards
your domestics; requiring no more of them,
than you would be willing to perform in
their situation; instructing them when you
have opportunity; sympathizing in their
afflictions, and promoting their best interests
when in your power.

My governess forbids me ever to speak to
the servants, therefore I cannot shew them
any kindness, without disobeying her.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Your governess shews her discretion in
forbidding you to be familiar with the servants.
Their want of education renders them Q2r 171
them improper companions, but can never
deprive them of their claim to our tenderness
and good offices.

Mr. Harcourt.
It is time to proceed in our account of
the process of preparing the juice of the
sugar-cane for use. When the canes are
ripe, they are cut, and carried in bundles
to the mill. The mills consist of three
wooden rollers, covered with steel plates,
and are set in motion, either by water,
wind, cattle, or even the hands of slaves.
The juice being squeezed out of the canes,
by the rollers, runs through a little canal
into the sugar-house, where it falls into
a vessel, from whence it itis conveyed into
the first copper. With the liquor is mixed
a quantity of ashes and quick-lime, which
serves to purify it, by raising up the unctuous
matter in form of a scum to the top,
which is skimmed off and given to poultry.
This operation is performed five or six
times, till the sugar is sufficiently purified,
and become of a proper thickness to be Q2 convert- Q2v 172
converted into the various kinds for use.
It is then put into hogsheads, and sent
over to England to the care of the sugarrefiners,
whose business it is to complete
the process, by boiling it up with bullocks
blood, in order to clear it. Sometimes
whites of eggs are used for the same
purpose. They add a little of the finest indigo
to give it a good colour. It is boiled
over again that the moist parts may evaporate.
The next thing to be done is to
fill the moulds, which are in the form of
inverted cones. The rooms in which these
moulds are placed, are heated to a suitable
degree, to dry the sugar they contain. When
the loaves are fully dried, they are papered,
and sold to the grocer.

Are sugar-candy and barley-sugar made
from the sugar-cane? they are different
from sugar both in taste and colour.

Mr. Harcourt.
The material is the same, although the
preparation varies. Sugar-candy, is sugar crystal- Q3r 173
crystallized. It is first dissolved in a weak
lime-water, then clarified, scummed, strained
through a cloth, and boiled. It is afterwards
put into forms or moulds, that
are crossed with threads to retain the sugar
as it crystallizes. These forms are suspended
in a hot stove, which is shut up,
and the fire made very vehement. Upon
this, the sugar fastens to the strings that
cross the forms, and there hangs in little
splinters of crystal. When the sugar is
quite dry, the forms are broken, and the
sugar is taken out candied. Red sugarcandy
is coloured, by pouring a little juice
of the Indian fig into the vessel, whilst the
sugar is boiling. Barley-sugar, is sugar
boiled till it is brittle, and then poured on
a stone anointed with oil of sweet almonds,
and formed into twisted sticks. It should
be boiled up with a decoction of barley,
whence it takes its name, they sometimes
cast saffron into it, to give to it the bright
amber colour.

Q3 Mrs. Q3v 174

Mrs. Harcourt.
Sugar is a very useful commodity. It
preserves both animal and vegetable substances
from putrefaction; and we are indebted
to it, on this account, for all the
variety of conserves and sweetmeats which
adorn and enrich our repasts. White sugarcandy
is used by miniature painters to prevent
the colours from cracking, when
mixed with gum arabic; and Henry need
not be told how useful barley-sugar is in
coughs and hoarsenesses.

Mr. Harcourt.
It is supposed, that although the ancients
were acquainted with this plant, they were
ignorant of our method of refining and preparing
it. The first account we have of
sugar refiners in England, is in the year
16591659. Several other things are produced
from the sugar-cane. Treacle is the syrup
that runs from the barrels of raw sugar.
Rum is distilled from the sugar-cane.

Charles. Q4r 175

Is not arrack also made from sugar?

Mr. Harcourt.
It is sometimes distilled from rice and
sugar, fermented with the juice of cocoanuts;
but it is generally distilled from a vegetable
juice called toddy, which flows by incision
out of the cocoa-nut tree, like the birch
juice procured among us for wine. The
sugar-house of a refiner is a large building,
consisting of six or seven floors, and
the utensils necessary to perform the different
operations, require the aid of various
kinds of workmen. The pans, coolers,
cisterns, syrup-pipes, basons, ladles,
skimmers, and sometimes the candy-pots
are made of copper. Pipes, pumps, and
cisterns made of lead are also used. The
iron-founder supplies bars of a triangular
form to be laid under the pans; also the
cockel, which is an iron trunk used to
dry the goods in the stove, iron-doors, &c.
The carpenter is required to furnish racks, 2 troughs, Q4v 176
troughs, stools, blocks, coolers, oars, &c.
Tubs and backs to hold the lime-water,
which contain from thirty to two hundred
barrels, employ the back-maker. The
wicker-work consists of refining-baskets,
scum-baskets, pulling up baskets, coal and
clay-baskets, &c. Thus if we consider
the numbers employed in building the ships
used in bringing over the sugar, and in
conveying the poor slaves from their own
country; planters, overseers, &c. we may
suppose that we do not taste a lump of sugar
that is not produced by the united labour
of a thousand hands.

And yet we use the conveniencies of life
in a careless wasteful manner, without reflecting
one moment on the trouble necessary
to procure them. May I relate
the manner of obtaining the maple-sugar,
which some have endeavoured to introduce
in the room of the produce of the

Mrs. Q5r 177

Mrs. Harcourt.
By all means, it will give us pleasure to
hear it.

The acer saccharinum, or the sugar-mapletree,
grows in great quantities in the western
countries of all the middle states of the
American Union. These trees are generally
found mixed with the beech, hemlock,
white and water-ash, the cucumber-tree,
linden, aspen, butter-nut, and wild cherrytrees.
They grow only on the richest soils,
and frequently in stony ground. Springs
of the purest water abound in their neighbourhood.
They are, when fully grown,
as tall as the white and black oaks, and
from two to three feet in diameter. They
put forth a beautiful white blossom in the
spring before they shew a single leaf. The
wood of the maple-tree is extremely inflammable.
Its small branches are so much
impregnated with sugar, as to afford support to Q5v 178
to the cattle, horses, and sheep of the first
settlers, during the winter, before they are
able to cultivate forage for that purpose.
Its ashes afford a great quantity of pot-ash,
exceeded by few of the trees that grow
in the woods of the United States.. The
tree is supposed to arrive at its full growth
in twenty years. It is not injured by tapping,
on the contrary, the oftener it is
tapped, the more syrup it yields. The effects
of a yearly discharge of sap from the
tree, in improving and increasing the sap,
are demonstrated from the superior excellence
of those trees, which have been perforated
in an hundred places, by a small
wood-pecker, which feeds upon the sap.
The method of obtaining the sap, is by
boring a hole in the tree, with an auger;
a spout is introduced about half an inch
into the hole, made by the auger. The
sap flows from four to six weeks, according
to the temperature of the weather. Troughs are Q6r 179
are placed under the spout to receive the
sap, which is carried every day to a large
receiver, whence it is conveyed, after being
strained to the boiler. There are three
modes of reducing the sap to sugar; by
evaporation, by freezing, and by boiling,
of which the latter is the most expeditious.
The profit of this tree is not confined to
its sugar. It affords a most agreeable molasses,
and an excellent vinegar. The sap,
which is suitable for these purposes, is obtained,
after the sap which affords the sugar
has ceased to flow, so that the manufactories
of these different products of the
maple-tree, by succeeding, do not interfere
with each other. The molasses may
be used to compose the basis of a pleasant
summer beer. The sap of the maple is
moreover capable of affording a spirit.
A tree so various in its uses, if duly cultivated,
may one day supply us with
sugar, and silence the arguments of the planters, Q6v 180
planters, for a continuance of the slavetrade.

Mr. Harcourt.
Very philosophically observed. We
thank you, for your entertaining account,
and wish you good-night, as it is already
past the usual time of separation.

Conversation X.

I thank you, dear mamma, in the
name of my brothers and sister, for the
pleasure you have given us, in allowing
us to accept Farmer Dobson’s invitation
to his sheep-shearing. We have passed
a very agreeable afternoon, both from the
civility of the honest farmer and his wife,
and the novelty of the scene, which was
very striking to us, as we had never seen
any thing of the kind before. It remindeded R1r 181
me of Thomson’s description of a
sheep-shearing, which with your leave I
will repeat.

Mrs. Harcourt.
It will give me pleasure to hear it, provided
you are careful to speak slow, distinct,
and give every word its proper emphasis.

Cecilia. “In one diffusive band, They drive the troubled flocks, by many a dog Compell’d, to where the mazy-running brook Forms a deep pool; this bank abrupt and high, And that fair-spreading in a pebbled shore, Urg’d to the giddy brink, much is the toil, The clamour much, of men, and boys, and dogs, Ere the soft fearful people to the flood Commit their woolly sides. And oft the swain, On some impatient seizing, hurls them in: Embolden’d then, nor hesitating more, Fast, fast, they plunge amid the flashing wave, And, panting, labour to the farthest shore. Repeated this, till deep the well wash’d fleece Has drunk the flood, and from his lively haunt R The R1v 182 The trout is banish’d by the sordid stream; Heavy, and dripping, to the breezy brow Slow move the harmless race: where, as they spread Their swelling treasures to the sunny ray, Inly disturb’d, and wondering what this wild Outrageous tumult means, their loud complaints The country fill; and, toss’d from rock to rock, Incessant bleatings run around the hills. At last, of snowy white, the gathered flocks Are in the wattled pen innumerous press’d, Head above head; and rang’d in lusty rows, The shepherds sit, and whet the sounding shears. The housewife waits to roll her fleecy stores, With all her gay-dress’d maids attending round. One, chief, in gracious dignity enthron’d, Shines o’er the rest, the pastoral queen, and rays Her smiles, sweet beaming, on her shepherd king; While the glad circle round them yield their souls To festive mirth, and wit that knows no gall. Meantime, their joyous task goes on apace: Some mingling stir the melted tar; and some, Deep on the new shorn vagrant’s heaving side To stamp his master’s cypher ready stand; Others th’ unwilling wedder drag along; And, glorying in his might, the sturdy boy Holds by the twisted horns th’ indignant ram. Behold, where bound, and of its robe bereft, By R2r 283 By needy man, that all-depending lord, How meek, how patient, the mild creature lies! What softness in its melancholy face, What dumb complaining innocence appears! Fear not, ye gentle tribes, ’tis not the knife Of horrid slaughter that is o’er you wav’d; No, ’tis the tender swain’s well-guided shears, Who having now, to pay his annual care, Borrow’d your fleece, to you a cumbrous load, Will send you bounding to your hills again.”

Mrs. Harcourt.
Tolerably well repeated; a general acquaintance
with the best English poets,
united with a retentive memory and graceful
enunciation, will furnish the rare and
delightful accomplishment of repeating selected
passages, which may supply an elegant
amusement for the vacant hour of
domestic leisure, and prevent that lassitude
so frequently complained of at home, and
which compels many to seek a refuge
from themselves in dissipation and fashionable

R2 Sophia. R2v 184

My time is so variously filled up, that I
never experience that wearisomeness.

Mrs. Harcourt.
A well chosen succession of employments,
is the best antidote against ennui, as it is
termed by the French, or listlessness. Reading,
drawing, natural history in its different
branches, simple mathematics, experimental
philosophy, with various other
rational pursuits, are admirably calculated
to fill up the leisure hours of persons in
easy circumstances, whose duties or business
afford them opportunity for such

Mr. Harcourt.
It is a just observation that none but
the idle want employment. The active
mind collects amusement from the most
trifling events. Cannot a sheep-shearing supply
us with a hint for the subject of our
present conversation? Sophia, endeavour to R3r 185
to entertain us with the natural history of
the sheep.

Sheep, according to Linnæus are of the
order of pecora, and make a distinct genus,
the characters which distinguish them, are
that their horns are hollow, bent backward,
wreathed, and crooked, and scabrous. They
have eight cutting teeth in the lower jaw,
but none in the upper, and no canine teeth.
The wool of these animals consists only
of long slender hairs, much twisted, and variously
interwoven with one another. This
cloathing is peculiar to the sheep kind, so
far as is yet known, no other animal having
been discovered with a similar covering;
neither is it possessed by all the species of
sheep, some of those of the distant nations
have short hair like that of the goat.

Mr. Harcourt.
In addition to your general account of
the sheep, I will enumerate the species,
and their peculiarities, which according to R3 the R3v 186
the same great master of natural arrangement,
Linnæus, are three; first the ovis aries,
or ram sheep, which comprehends many varieties,
such as the common sheep, with large
horns twisting spirally and outwardly: the
hornless sheep, with the tail hanging down
to the knees; this kind is common in many
parts of England. The Spanish, or many
horned sheep, having usually three horns,
and sometimes four or five. This sort of
sheep is frequent in Iceland, Siberia, and
other northern countries. The African
sheep, which has short hair like that of the
goat. And the broad-tailed sheep, which
is common in Syria, Barbary, and Ethiopia.
The tails of these are so long, as to trail
upon the ground, and the shepherds are
obliged to put boards with small wheels
under them, to keep them from galling.
These tails are esteemed a great delicacy,
being of a substance between fat and marrow;
they sometimes weigh fifty pounds
each. The broad-tailed sheep are also found in R4r 187
in the kingdom of Thibet, and their fleeces
are equal to those of Caramania in fineness,
beauty, and length. The Cackemirians
engross this article, and have factors
in all parts of Thibet, for buying up the
wool, which they work up into those elegant
shawls, that are brought into this counry
from the East-Indies, and this manufacture
supplies them with a considerable
source of wealth. The second species is
the ovis Guiniensis, commonly called the
Angola sheep. They are long legged and
tall, and their ears hang down, the horns
are small, and bending down to the eyes.
The neck is adorned with a long mane,
the hair of the rest of the body is short,
and it has wattles on the neck. The third
species is the ovis strepsiciros, or Cretan
sheep, with horns quite erect, twisted like
a screw, and beautifully furrowed on the
outside. This kind is common in Hungary,
and large flocks of them are found
on Mount Ida, in Crete. The manners of R4v 188
of this animal are naturally harmless and
timid; it threatens by stamping with its
foot, but its only resistance is by butting
with its horns. It generally brings one
young one at a time, sometimes two, and
rarely three. It is a valuable animal to the
farmer, as it is kept at the least expence
of any, and will thrive upon almost any
pasture ground, not particularly wet; a constant
damp causes them to rot.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Almost every part of it may be applied to
some useful purpose. The flesh is a delicate
and wholesome food. The skin, when
dressed, forms different parts of our apparel,
as shoes and gloves; it is also used
for covers of books. The entrails, properly
prepared and twisted, are used in clocks,
and various musical instruments. The bones
calcined, form materials for tests for the
refiner. The milk is thicker than that of
cows, and consequently yields a greater
quantity, in proportion, of butter and cheese; R5r 189
cheese: and even the dung is useful as a
rich manure; but the most valuable part of
all is the fleece, or wool, which when
washed, shorn, dressed, combed, spun, and
wove, makes a vast variety of stuffs and
cloths, suitable both for cloathing and furniture,
and was so highly valued by the ancients
for its utility, as to have given rise
to the story of the golden fleece, which I
request the favour of Charles to relate.

The ancients, always fond of fables, concealed
the simplest events, under the appearance
of some extraordinary story. Jason,
son of Æson, king of Thessaly, sailed
in the first large ship (called Argo) to fetch
the golden fleece from Colchis. Fiftyfour
brave Thessalians accompanied him in
his expedition, and from the name of the
vessel are called Argonauts. Their object
is supposed to have been the establishment
of a profitable trade in wool, in
which that country excelled. The difficultiesculties R5v 190
he met with in his undertaking,
and which he overcame by his prudence,
are represented by the fable of a dragon.
that guarded the fleece, and which he is
said to have killed by the assistance of Medea,
an enchantress. The education this
prince had received from Chiron, the centaur,
famous for his arts and learning, had
fitted him for cultivating commerce, and
promoting useful discoveries. Jason at
length reigned, and died peacably at Colchis.

Another proof of the high veneration
that was paid to the inventors of the woollen
manufacture, is, that the art of preparing
it was attributed to Minerva, the goddess
of wisdom, and the protectress of the
useful arts.

We have been entertainmed with the history
of the sheep, and a general account of
its uses; but I am very desirous of knowinging R6r 191
the manner of working wool, and rendering
so rough a material fit for the purposes
of spinning and weaving fine cloth.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Various are the operations it undergoes,
before it is in a proper state for the purposes
you mention. The fleeces, when
taken out of the bales in which they are
packed after shearing, must be scoured;
when the wool has continued long enough
in the liquor to dissolve and loosen the
grease, it is taken out, and well washed and
dried; it is then beat with rods, on hurdles
of wood, to clear it of the dust and grosser
filth. The next thing is to pick it, and oil it
with oil of olives. It is now given out to the
spinners, who first card it on the kneel; that
is, pass it between the points or teeth of two
instruments, something like a curry-comb,
called cards, to disentangle it, and prepare
it for spinning, which is an operation too
common to need description. The thread,
or worsted being spun, reeled, and made into R6v 192
into skeins, is ready for the hand of the
weaver, who begins his work by putting
the warp, or threads, the long way of the
piece, into the loom, which he stiffens
with size before he forms the woof,
which is done by throwing the thread
with a shuttle across the warp, till the work
be finished; when it is to be cleared of all
knots, &c. and carried to the fuller to be
scoured and cleansed, ready for dying; after
it is dyed, it is pressed and prepared for
sale. Different kinds of goods require variation
in the process, according to the kind
of stuff intended to be made.

Wool is applied to a vast many different
purposes, what are the principal manufactures
in which it is employed?

Mr. Harcourt.
Let Henry endeavour to enumerate
the things that we use, that are made of

Henry. S1r 193

Broad cloths for men’s coats, flannel,
blankets, carpets, rugs, caps, stockings, and
various kinds of stuffs.

All stockings are not knitted, how are
the others made?

Mr. Harcourt.
They are wove in a machine, called a
stocking-frame, very ingeniously contrived,
but too complex to give you any idea of it by
description. Wool is the staple commodity
of this island, and forms the principal
article in our foreign and domestic trade.
The yearly produce of wool in England,
towards the close of the last century, was
calculated at two millions sterling, and
consequently it gives employment to a vast
number of hands. A pack, or two hundred
and forty pounds weight of short
wool, is computed to employ sixty-three
persons a week, to manufacture it into
cloths: and when it is made into stuffs or S stockings, S1v 194
stockings, it employs a much greater number.

The working of wool is doubtless an invention
of great antiquity; but how long
has it been introduced into England?

Mr. Harcourt.
It may be said to have risen into notice
about the fourteenth century. King Edward
the third
introduced the fine woollen
manufacture from the Netherlands. Queen
greatly improved the state of this
manufacture by her patronage, in which
she received considerable assistance from
the troubles in the low countries, excited
by the severity of the Duke of Alva, and
the Spanish inquisition, on account of religion,
which drove numbers of manufacturers
to take shelter in England, where
they enjoyed protection and encouragement
to settle. Contrast the conduct of
Elizabeth and the Duke of Alva. The
one cherished the useful arts, and diffused happiness S2r 195
happiness and wealth among her people;
the other, from a gloomy superstition, deprived
his country of useful manufacturers,
and obliged them to take refuge in the dominions
of his rival, which they enriched
by their labours and skill.

Mrs. Harcourt.
Nature is an excellent instructress. From
the nautilus men learned the art of sailing.
From the spider they are supposed to have
been taught the art of weaving. Attention
to natural objects will probably supply
new discoveries, which are now unthought

What country produces the finest wool?

Mr. Harcourt.
The wool of Asia excels that of Europe.
Of the European, none is more valued
than the Spanish and the English. Spain
is famous for its breed of sheep, they have
frequently ten thousand in a flock, under S2 the S2v 196
the care of fifty shepherds, who are subservient
to the authority of one man.

I think I should like to be a shepherd,
it must be an easy pleasant life.

Mrs. Harcourt.
They generally pass their time in a very
indolent useless manner; though some in the
north of England knit stockings, yet it appears
to me, that a better plan of employment
might be suggested for them, without interfering
with their principal occupation.
Those who could read and write, might keep
a register of the weather, and make observations
upon the natural objects that presented
themselves to their view, which
might be a means of promoting useful

Is it not the custom for the lord chancellor,
the judges, and masters in chancery,
to be seated on woolpacks, in the
house of Lords?

Mr. S3r 197

Mr. Harcourt.
That is a custom not very easy to be account
for, unless it is to remind them of
protecting and maintaining the woollen manufactures
of this country.

Mrs. Harcourt.
It is time to put an end to our conversation.
Supper is ready. Good night,

End of the First Volume.