Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

that reference should be inade. As soon as the invention of Mr. Brook's blow-pipe offered an easy method of compressing and propelling one of the gaseous constituents of water, while the other might be afforded by the combustion of a spirit-lamp, the author, of course, as he has before acknowledged, availed himself of this apparatus ;* but finding, as he before said, that the heat was not sufficient for his pure pose, “because the hydrogen was not afforded in its due proportion,'t he was directed, by the maker of the blow-pipe, to compress the mixed gases, and burn them, upon the principle of gas illumination, when pro pelled through a capillary tube. As to the relative proportion between the two gases, after all that he now has stated, and during twelve years bas constantly repeated, upon the subject of volcanoes, at his public lectures before the University of Cambridge,is it necessary to ask, whether he would hesitate to mix them in the proportion for forming WATER ? That he did not hesitate, is evident ; because in the very beginning of the earliest account which be published of his experiments with the gas blon-pipe, I and in the very first words of it, be mentions “ water as the combustible for increasing the action of fire ;'-and in a page almost immediately following, $ be states the relative proportion between the two gases which he had adopted ; namely,“ two parts, by bulk, of hydrogen, and one part of oxygen." If, in any publication anterior to the article bere cited, it can be made to appear that the same proportion had been adopted by any other person, he forgoes, of course, all claiin to this part of the improvement in the mode of using the gas blow-pipe.'

The remaining pages relate to the new chemical facts which the use of this blow-pipe has made known. Among the more remarkable may be mentioned the pseudo-metallic lustre exhibited by si-, lica, and by other substances once considered as refractory bodies, when their fusion has been accomplished in a charcoal crucible. We have seen rock crystal, which, after being thus melted, appears like a globule of the purest mercury ; and it retains its high metallic lustre unaltered by exposure to atmospheric air. It had fallen, while in a state of fusion, upon a deal board, into which it consequently became imbedded, and when taken out was found to have this remarkable metallic lustre. The same appearance is exhibited by pure crystallized alumina under similar circumstance, as in the instances of the sapphire and the ruby. Does not this admit of an obvious explanation? We would propose it as a quære for our chemical readers, whether charcoal coming into contact with metallic oxides when in a state of fusion, and at a temperature so exalted, may not, from its powerful affinity of oxygen, so far revive the metals of the earth as to exhibit them in a minimum of oxidation, and with metallic lustre, in the form of the thin superficies

+ Ibid.

Journal of the Royal Institution, III. 105. * $ Ibid. p. 107.

VOL. XXIII. NO. 46.-Q. R.

| Ibid. · which

60

which then invests those bodies. The fusion of wood-tin, and the perfect metallic lustre it afterwards exhibits, even when cut by a file, although still remaining in the state of an oxide; the combustion of platinum ; the melting of rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, so as to cause them to run together into one mass ; the revival of certain metals from their oxides ; and above all, the revival of a perfectly metallic appearance from barytes, which again becomes barytic earth upon simple exposure to the action of atmospheric air, are among the other new chemical results which the use of the gas blow-pipe has enabled the author to obtain.

It is now above forty years since the first experiments with oxygen gas, in aid of fusion, were made by the celebrated Achard, as may be seen by reference to the Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences, at Berlin, for the year 1779.* The observations of Lavoisier, upon the same subject, appeared in the Transactions of the Royal Academy of Sciences, at Paris, three years afterwards.t Achard, by propelling a stream of what he called, after Priestley, dephlogisticated air, upon the flame of a lamp, succeeded in melting grains of platinum, and other refractory bodies. These experiments were followed by Ehrmann, of Strasbourg, who, in 1785, published a work, which was translated by Fontallard, and entitled · Essai d'un Art de Fusion, a l'aide de l'Air du Feu, ou Air Vital.' By an extract made from the Records of the Academy at Paris, signed by the Marquis of Condorcet upon the 23d of June, 1786, it appears that Lavoisier, Berthollet and Fourcroy had been appointed by the Academy de lui rendre compte de l'ouvrage de M. Ehrmann traduit par M. de Fontallard;' upon which occasion it was urged that Ehrmann's experiments were unknown to Lavoisier, although in their results they agreed so strikingly with those which the French chemist had obtained. In these experiments a degree of heat had been excited nearly equal to that which is developed by burning the gaseous constituents of water. Lavoisier failed, however, in his endeavour to accomplish the fusion of rock crystal ;1 and in numerous experiments made upon this substance in 1772, with the great burning glass of Ischirnhausen, it had resisted the most exalted temperature to which it was exposed. The same thing happened

* See also the Chemical Memoirs of François Charles Achard, vol. i. page 134. Berlin, 1784.

$ Mémoires par M. Lavoisier sur l'Action du Feu animé par l'Air vital, sur les Substances Minérales les plus réfractaires, publiés dans les Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Scieocer.

1.Quoi ue l'activité du feu fôt très-grande, il n'a pas fonda pendant l'espace de 2 minutes 30 secondes qu'a duré l'expérience.'--Mémoire de M. Lavoisier, p. 243. Strasbourg, 1787.

with regard to lime* and magnesia,t both of which were found to

he utterly refractory. These substances have been all of them · melted by the gas blow-pipe, the powers of which are entirely due, not only to the presence of hydrogen gas in a state of mixture with the oxygen gas, but the two gases mixed together in the exact proportion for forming water; namely, two parts, by bulk, of hydrogen gas added to one part of oxygen gas ;' and as our author is the first person who made use of the two gases in this state of mixture, as fuel for his gas blow-pipe, the invention is so far his own. Indeed when the hydrogen is added only in slight excess, which some pretend to have used, the mixture will not burn.

We will add a very few words with regard to the theory maintained in this work, upon the effects, rather than the origin, of volcanic fire. It is maintained by the author that the effects of the combustion of the mixed gases, resemble those which are produced by volcanoes. This appears to be capable of the strictest demonstration. If while the gaseous mixture is propelled from a gas blow-pipe, and exposed to combustion, the result of this combustion be collected in a receiver, it is found to be pure water. The same may be said of the gases propelled from volcanoes, as it has been proved by repeated observations upon Mount Vesuvius. After the tremendous explosions of that volcano, water descends as dew or rain, sometimes covering the whole surface of the cone. By placing vessels over any of the crevices or apertures upon the sides of the mountain whence the steam of the mixed gases is propelled after combustion, pure water may also be collected, as appears by accounts which have lately been published. That water has been admitted to the action of volcanic fire, and thereby decomposed, is therefore evident in its recomposition ; and we conceive that nothing more is requisite to establish the opinion maintained in this work. We all know that when water is cast upon burning coal it is liable to decomposition. If this decomposition, therefore, ensue, in consequence of the admission of sea-water to the vast beds of fire which connect Ætna with Vesuvius and with other volcanoes, the gaseous result, exposed to indefinite compression and subsequent combustion, may be attended with effects differing only from those exhibited by the gas blow-pipe, as the mighty operations of nature in the universe differ from the puny imitations of the chemist in his laboratory.'

*' résulte de ces expériences, que la terre calcaire pure, ou plus exactemeut la chaux est absolument infusible par le plus grand degré de feu qu'on a pu lui faire éprouver jusqu'à present. '--Ibid. p. 275.

+ Le Morceau s'est reduit, mais la violence du feu n'y a occasionné aucune autre altération.'--Ibid. p. 278.

[ocr errors]

ART. IX.--The Comedies of Aristophanes. By T. Mitchell,

A. M. late Fellow of Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge. Vol. I. pp. 462. London. 1820.

W. SOME of our readers may be disposed to think that the subject

of the Aristophanic comedy has of late occupied a sufficient space in our pages : we must, however, persevere, and insist like Falstaff — Play on the play. We have much to say in behalf of that same Aristophanes. With respect to the present translation, it may truly be said to be much the best that has hitherto appeared in our own, or, as far as our acquaintance extends, in any other modern language. It may even be said, with truth, that, to an English reader, the first perusal of this translation may afford as much pleasure as the perusal of the original is calculated to give to a proficient in the Greek language, who undertakes, for the first time, to read a play of Aristophanes in the original. Those, however, who have indulged in a continued study of the original, and (prompted by the perpetual developement of new and unobserved beauties in the change and play of style, and in the brief and pointed expression of comic character,) have become entirely familiar with the author, will continue to derive a pleasure from repeated reperusals of the original, such as we cannot venture to promise to the English scholar, if he should be induced to recur, for a second or third time, to the work now before us. We shall, however, before we conclude, have the satisfaction of pointing out some passages which, like those of the original, fix themselves (the great test of excellence) involutarily in the memory, and which may be recalled to it and repeated with undiminished gratification. The main cause of the defect alluded to, and of the disappointment which will be experienced by those who are best acquainted with the original, if they expect to find the various forms of language, and the phrases expressive of character, represented in a satisfactory manner by English equivalents, is to be attributed to the adoption of a particular style; the style of our ancient comedy in the beginning of the 16th century. We shall proceed to give the reasons, which lead us to consider this style as peculiarly proper for the purposes to which our own early dramatic poets applied it; and which, at the same time, and for the same reasons, if they are just ones, must render it wholly unsuitable for representing or reproducing that peculiar species of drama to which the comedies of Aristophanes belong.

The early comedy of modern Europe, that of the first of the 16th century, is a fancy portrait of the society of the time. The pleasure which it afforded was similar to that wbich we experience when we contemplate a picture, in which the resemblance of a countenance familiar to us is expressed with that addition of harmony

and

and grace which embellish the resemblance, without much detracting from its truth. Such was the character and principle of the dramas of Calderon and his cotemporaries; and, before him, of Lope; and of Fletcher, Shirley and others, amongst ourselves. In all these, dignity of character is uniformly maintained—the cavaliers are represented as daring and generous, delicate and faithful to excess : the highest tone of sentiment is kept up: the tone of the language, also, (which is more to our purpose) is proportionably elevsted above the common parlance of those times. Hence, as in tragedy, (and for the same reasons,) the appearance of truth and nature in the whole composition, is preserved by the easy and probable arrangement of events, quarrels, jealousies, discoveries, and sudden turns of fortune, which constitute what is called the plot. The excellence of these comedies, and the merit of the author, were esti. mated, in great measure, from the construction of the plot; for as by the rules which belong to that species of drama, the language and characters were idealized, and, therefore, to a certain degree, removed from reality and experience, the admission of this improbability would require to be compensated, by a greater apparent probability in the only part which remained, viz. the action and events. *

But the ancient Aristophanic comedy proceeded upon a principle of compensation totally different. In this species of composition, the utter extravagance and impossibility of the supposed action, is an indispensable requisite; the portion of truth and reality, which is admitted as a counterpoise, consists wholly if the character and language. It is a grave, humorous, impossible, GREAT LIE, related with an accurate mimicry of the language and nanner of the persons introduced, and great exactness of circumstance in the inferior details. In its simpler state, it appears to be one of the commonest and most spontaneous products of the human mind; and usually arises in some strong expression, which, a moment

• In what we have said on this subject, we have followed the course by wbich we are pere guaded that the authors we have mentioned arrived at the conclusions which guided their practice; but for mere illustration it would be equally obvious to invert the statement, andi to say that where the incidents are probable, the language and sentiments must be elevated above ordinary nature, and in this order it would seem that the inferior tribe of dramatists have, in general, proceeded, taking probability of character and incident as their basis, and endeavouring to eopoble it by displays of style and sentiment. The result of the direct and of the inverted process may he exemplified in the Electras of Sophocles and Euripides: io the first, the display of character is evidently the principal object; the probability of the story is artfully elaborated; but we see that it was a secondary consideration. To Euripides, on the contrary, probability is evidently the primary object, while the characters are left to display themselves as circumstances may permit. 'We have taken our illustration of the two opposite processes from tragedy, because, in fact, this system of counterpoise, in #bich the probability of the story 19 placed as a weight in one of the scales, belongs equally to tragedy and to ihe higher species of comedy.

aster

« AnteriorContinuar »