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FROM THE SPORTING MAGAZINE.
THE VIRTUES OF A ROPE-DANCER.
(An Anecdote related of Dr. Johnson.)
APRIL the 10th, I dined with him at Sir J. R's. I regret that I have preserved but few minutes of his conversation on that day, though he was less talkative, and fuller of capriciousness and contradiction, than usual, as the following dialogue may show whilst at the same time it proves, that there is no question so entirely barren of matter or argument, which could not furnish him an occasion of displaying the powers of his mighty mind.
We talked of public places; and one gentleman spoke warmly of Sadler's Wells. Mr. C, who had been so unfortunate as to displease Dr. Johnson, and wished to reinstate himself in his good opinion, thought he could not do it more effectually than by decrying such light amusements as those of tumbling and rope-dancing; in particular he asserted that "a rope-dancer was, in his opinion, the most despicable of human beings." Johnson (awfully rolling himself, as he prepared to speak, and bursting out into a thundering tone), said, "Sir, you might as well say that St. Paul was the most despicable of human beings. Let us beware how we petulantly and ignorantly traduce a character which puts all other characters to shame. Sir, a rope-dancer concentrates in himself all the cardinal virtues."-Well as I was acquainted with the sophistical talents of my friend, and often as I had listened to him in wonder, while he "made the worse appear the better reason," I could not but suppose that, for once, he had been betrayed by his violence into an assertion which he could not support. Urged by my curiosity, and perhaps rather wickedly desirous of leading him into a contest, I ventured to say, in a sportive familiar manner, which he sometimes indulgently permitted me to use, " Indeed, Dr. Johnson! did I hear you right? A rope-dancer concentrate in himself all the cardinal virtues?" The answer was ready :-"Why, yes, Sir, deny it who dare. I in a rope-dancer there is temperance, and faith, and hope, and charity, and justice, and prudence, and fortitude." Still I was not satisfied: and, desirous to hear his proofs at full length: -Boswell" why, to be sure, Sir, fortitude I can easily conceive."-Johnson (interrupting me), "Sir, if you cannot conceive the rest, it is to no purpose that you conceive the seventh. But to those who cannot comprehend, it is necessary to explain. Why then, Sir, we will begin with temperance. Sir, if the joys of the bottle entice him one inch beyond the line of sobriety, his life or
his limbs must pay the forfeiture of his excess. Then, Sir, there is faith. Without unshaken confidence in his own powers, and full assurance that the rope is firm, his temperance will be but of little advantage: the unsteadiness of his nerves would prove as fatal as the intoxication of his brain. Next, Sir, we have hope. A dance so dangerous, who ever exhibited, unless lured by the hope of fortune or of fame? Charity next follows: and what instance of charity shall be opposed to that of him, who, in the hope of administering to the gratification of others, braves the hiss of multitudes, and derides the dread of death? Then, Sir, what man will withhold from the funambulist the praise of justice, who considers his inflexible uprightness, and that he holds his balance with so steady a hand, as never to incline, in the minutest degree, to one side or the other. Nor, in the next place, is his prudence more disputable than his justice. He has chosen, indeed, a dangerous accomplishment; but while it is remembered that he is temerarious in the maturity of his art, let it not be forgotten that he was cautious in its commencement; and that, while he was yet in the rudiments of rope-dancing, he might securely fail in his footing, while his instructors stood ready on either side to prevent or to alleviate his fall. Lastly, Sir, those who, from dullness or from obstinacy, shall refuse to the ropedancer the applauses due to temperance, faith, hope, charity, justice, and prudence, will yet scarcely be so hardened in falsehood, or in folly, as to deny him the laurels of fortitude. He that is content to totter on a cord, while his fellow mortals sit securely on the broad basis of terra firma: who performs the jocund evolutions of the dance on a superficies, compared to which, the verge of a precipice is a stable station; may rightfully snatch the wreath from the conqueror and the martyr; may boast that he exposes himself to hazards, from which he might fly to the cannon's mouth as a refuge or a relaxation! Sir, let us now be told no more of the infamy of the rope-dancer."
When he had ended, I could not help whispering Sir J. R.— Boswell, "how wonderfully does our friend extricate himself out of difficulties! He is like quicksilver: try to grasp him in your hand, and he makes his escape between every finger." This image I afterwards ventured to mention to our great moralist and lexicographer, saying, “may not I flatter myself, Sir, that it was a passable metaphor?"-Johnson, "why, yes, Sir."
FROM NICHOLSON'S JOURNAL.
On the Migration of Swallows: by Dr. Traill. Read before a Literary and Philosophical Society established at Derby, Sept. 17th, 1808, of which Dr. Traill is a Corresponding Member.
TO MR. NICHOLSON.
YOUR correspondent Mr. Forster having solicited information on the subject of the migration of swallows, Dr. Traill was induced to request that the following paper, after having been read to the Derby Society, might be transmitted to you for publication. In compliance with that wish, it is herewith enclosed; and, I have no doubt, will be considered as an interesting contribution to this curious branch of natural History. I am, Sir, Your very obedient Servant. CHARLES SYLVESTER.
Extract from the Logbook of the Ship Jane, of Lancaster.-Captain John Thomson.
On the 17th of May, 1807, in latitude 51° 42' north; longitude 21° 44' west. Pleasant clear weather. Wind W. N. W. Light airs and calms. Wind Lat. D. R. 52° 6' N.; long.
18th. Pleasant clear weather. varying from S. E. to E. N. E. 21° 44' W.
19th. Steady breeze from E. S. E. Some showers of rain, and foggy weather for the most part of this day. Lat. D. R. 52° 11' N.; long. 21° 16′ W.
20th. Strong breezes, varying from S. to S. E. Foggy weather. About 4 p. m. several martins and swallows appeared about the two ships. At. 8 p. m. collected to a large covey; many of which pitched on different parts of this ship, and allowed themselves to be taken up by the seamen. At day-light in the morning found many of them dead in the mizen top, channel bends, and on the deck. Lat. D. R. 52° 33′ N. Long. 20° 21' W.
21st. Continues foggy, attended with rain. Wind mostly from south-eastward. In the course of the day great numbers of the swallows and martins were taken by the seamen ; and the cats and dog brought many of them. A great many had pitched in different parts of the ship; and all, or the greater part, found dead in the morning.
REMARKS BY DR. TRAILL.
The intelligent seaman, who made this extract from his logbook at my request, was then on his voyage from the West In
dies. He has been many years captain of a ship in the West India trade from Lancaster, and from this port. I know him to be a man of probity and veracity; and his account was confirmed by some of the mariners of the ship, then in company, with whom I conversed.
The circumstances chiefly to be attended to in the narration,
1. The weather, previously, was not so boisterous as to countenance the idea, that the swallows were forced by a tempest from the nearest shore; and the general direction of the wind was not unfavourable to the supposition of their having been aided by it, in their passage from the coast of Africa, where they were observed by the celebrated, but unfortunate, Adanson, to arrive in the winter.
2. The season of the year is favourable to the idea of their migration from the coast of Africa for the north of Europe. They alighted on the ships about the time that swallows begin to appear in Britain, to which they were probably proceeding; and it should not be forgotten, that about this time of the year swallows are seen to quit the coast of Senegal, and other parts of Africa.
3. The debility of these birds, which permitted them to fall an easy prey to the cats and dog; their suffering themselves to be caught by the seamen; and their being very lean, as I was informed was the case by those who examined them in the two ships, seem to show that they had made a long voyage, and not, that they had been accidentally driven by a gale, from the neighbouring shores of Britain and Ireland. Indeed, considering the great strength of wing, and velocity, of the swallow tribe, it must have been a tremendous gale that could drive them off the land: but, the previous weather was nothing boisterous, and captain Thomson experienced little more than a steady breeze,
4. The great number of these birds is another argument against the supposition of their having been carried to sea by a storm. Such instances in solitary birds of weak wing, are not uncommon. I once caught a golden crested wren (motacilla regulus, Lin.) in the shrouds of a vessel, when driven off the coast of Scotland by a sudden tempest; but instances of large flocks of birds, so strong and active as the swallow tribe, becoming the sport of the winds, are certainly very uncommon, even when the weather has been tempestuous.
5. Captain Thomson expressly mentions both swallows and martins; and he stated to me, that they differed in size. Hence, there were, at least, two species of swallows observed by him. As he does not pretend to the character of a naturalist, perhaps, there were not only the chimney swallow, or hirundo rustica, and martin, or h. urbica, but the swift, or h. apus, and even the sand
swallow, or h. riparia. This account, at least, supplies, in some degree, an omission of Mr. Adanson; who, in his interesting observations on the appearance of swallows in Africa, has omitted to state what species he observed there, or whether he observed more than one kind of swallow.
The preceding extract affords, in my opinion, another argument to prove the annual migration of swallows. That swallows sometimes have been found dormant, in the winter season, in cold climates, I am not disposed to deny. But had a bird so common with us, generally remained here all the winter in a dormant state, we, probably, should have discovered it more frequently than has ever been pretended. I will even admit that swallows have been found concealed amid rushes, by the banks of rivers, in this state but that they have ever been discovered alive at the bottom of pools and rivers, or otherwise excluded from the access of atmospheric air, we must be permitted to doubt, till it is proved, that the respiratory organs of swallows differ from those of other birds; or, that atmospheric air is unnecessary to the life of dormant animals. The extraordinary suspension of most of the living functions of animals of this class, is a subject of great physiological importance and curiosity; and deserves to be more fully investigated. But the claim of the swallow to an unusual structure of the organs of respiration, is completely overturned by the dissections of the celebrated John Hunter. In the alleged cases of the submersion of swallows, we must make allowance for the credulity, or inaccuracy, of observers; and I think it would not be difficult to refer almost all such alleged facts to one or other of these heads.
THOMAS STEWART TRAILL.
FROM THE REPOSITORY.
DESCRIPTION OF THE CATARACT OF TEQUENDAMA, IN
IT has been customary to consider the tremendous Cataract of Niagara, as the most remarkable natural curiosity of its kind. in the universe. The inaccuracy of this notion is shown by the following description of the Fall of Tequendama, situated near the city of Santa Fe de Bogota, in the kingdom of New Grenada, in South America; which only requires to be known, in order to establish a just claim to superior celebrity.
This cataract is more commonly known by the name of the