Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

booded and fasting at Malta, and if we fly him at any thing it is such mousing work, that he is ashamed of the rattle of his bells.

Iu regretting the waste of Signor Barzoni's talents, it is not our wish to reproach those who first assigned him, much less those sho have continued him in, his unprofitable office, any more than it is our intention to charge this or that administration with faults, common to them all, in the reflections which preceded our obser-rations on his work. So general a reproach has been popularly, and perhaps justly, attributed to a general disposing cause: but if this be the case, if we cannot hope that our foreign shall be as well adımistered as our domestic affairs, are we, where perfection is mattainable, to make no effort towards improvement? If party pubbles too much occupy the time and thoughts of our statesDa, is it not because party squabbles too much interest the passhes of the public? And can no good arise from awakeniug and directing their attention to other considerations? Are we not, after ail

, too apt to consider defects of long standing in matters of governDent, as inherent in the system, and as such, irremediable? We all fecollect when our troops were deficient in every military virtue lat courage. The language of that day was, that an army was not the natural weapon of Great Britain, and that we could not hope to see our land correspond with our naval forces in energy and discipline. Necessity forced us upon the experiment, and to its successful result Portugal owes her safety, and Spain looks to her deliverance. May this memorable experiment in all similar cirCurastances be our omen and our guide!

ART. IV. Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees and the Propagation of Timber in his Majesty's Dominions, together with an Historical Account of the

Sacredness and Use of Standing Grores. By John Evelyn, Esq. Fellow of the Royal Society. With Notes by H. Hunter, M. D. F. R. S. 1812. "The Fourth Edition, with the Editor's last Corrections, and a short Memoir

of him. THE occupation of planting belongs to an advanced period of

gociety, and the amusement of planting to a refined one. Whereever colouies of the human species have been spread over the face of the earth, they have usually found themselves annoyed and encumbered, in the first operations of agriculture, by a superfuity of native woods. Of the graminivorous animals, some have accompanied mankind in their migrations, and of those which from their wilder and more independent habits may be supposed to have

preceded

preceded our species, all have unquestionably found existing forests in a state too advanced to be injured by their tooth. This observation illustrates a remarkable fact in the economy of providence. Had the origin of plants and animals in every country been contemporary, and had the latter started at once from the earth, as the former are known to have done from seeds previously dispersed in situations adapted to their growth, the probability is, that woods and forests would never have arisen. For the instincts of many animals plainly direct them to boughs and leaves for food; and there are some, as the rhinoceros and elephant in Africa, and the ass and goat among ourselves, who, by a mischievous perversity of taste, prefer the dry browze of trees and shrubs to the most delicious herbaceous plants. But these monarchs of the vegetable kingdom, so easily destroyed in their infancy, so incapable of injuries from quadrupeds at a more advanced period, have commonly been found by man, wherever he has explored new countries, in a state of alternate luxuriance and decay, defying the bite of the graminivorous animals, which abounded under their shade and partook of their lower branches. These appearances at once prove and account for the fact, that migrations of quadrupeds have gradually taken place from some central point, while the principle of vegetable life started universally into action at the period of the creation. At all events such and so unchecked had long been the progress of woods and forests, at the first colonization of almost every country, that the original settlers have scarcely been able to win their way, or to make the first rude and circumscribed attempt at cultivation but by the destruction of ancient trees. Many centuries have elapsed, since man has spread himself over the plain and productive tracts of every country, before this process of devastation is at an end: the last remnants of native forests are they found in the deep vallies of remote mountainous districts, neither easy of access nor copious in the production of grain.

But in this long interval of increasing population and civility the wants of man are multiplied, cities are built, and navies launched. The demand for timber increases while the supply continues to diminish ; and it is at this precise point, in the progress of society, that the first conception of artificial planting, as an object of rustic economy, will begin to be fornied. The Romans, with all their expenditure of timber on architecture and ship-building, had never exhausted their native forests; the larch of the Appennines continued under the emperors to supply the capital itself with beams of stupendous bulk and unknown antiquity. Accordingly, it would be vain to seek in the works of the rei rusticæ scriptores for any systematic directions on the subject of planting timber trees. 'Virgil seized it as a charming subject for poetry, but

Columella,

[ocr errors]

Columella, at a somewhat later period, almost wholly omits it; while Cato, long before, sourly assigns the ninth and last place in bis catalogue of soils to that which was productive of the noblest, that is the glandiferous species of trees. • Cato quidem gradatiin proponens alium alio agrum, meliorem esse dicit in novem discrimnibus, quod sit primus ubi vineæ esse possunt, bono vino et multo -secundus, ubi hortus irriguus-tertius ubi salicta, quartus ubi oliseta, quintus ubi pratum, sextus, ubi campus frumentarius, septibus ubi cædua silva, octavus ubi arbuştum, nonus ubi glandaria slva.* We may pardon the father of geoponics for his very conistent preference of the vine ;t but a practical farmer like Cato veget to have known that the oak flourishes most in the same soil wa wheat. To the Romans we are indebted, in this island, for the chesnut, the first instance of artiticial planting amongst us, which, after rivalling the oak for some centuries in the construction of our ancient houses, has tacitly left that sovereign of the vegetable world to its ancient and deserved preeminence. The beech and the Scottish pine, notwithstanding the testimony of Cæsar to the contrary, are unquestionably indigenous iu Britain. Ainong the Saxons, with the exception of castles, and partly of churches, not the roofs only, but the walls of all buildings above the rank of mud aud watdes were of wood. Hence the word zimbpian came to signify building in general. But at this period the native forests of England were of vast extent, and so far was the national consumption of oak from exhausting them by use, so far were the efforts of agriculture from wearing them out by gradual encroachment, that without the ad of an heated imagination we may be permitted to believe individual trees, now existing, to have attained to no inconsiderable bulk before the conquest. But how have they survived so many revolutions? The answer is easy-Revolutions at those early periods brought with them no temptations to the destruction of woods. No man long perseveres in wanton and laborious mischief, and there was then no market for timber. When the

purposes

of housebote and hay-bote were answered, the survivors of the wood were left to live or die in the common course of nature. On the other band, in the most ancient records of noble and religious houses, scarcely a vestige can be discovered of any attention to the state of their woods; they were accounted rather an incumbrance than a profit; and for landscape or ornament men had then neither eyes por taste. But after the dissolution of the religious houses, a cer. tain insecurity which was long apprehended in the tenure of their lands, and a vast increase in the deinand for oak timber, by an in

* Varro de Re Rustica, 1. 1, s. 50. Ed. Rob: Steph.

+ Narratur et prisci Catonis
Sæpe mero caluisse virtus.

creased

creased solidity in the manuer of constructing inferior houses, occasioned so prodigious a devastation, that in the reign of Elizabeth the first scarcity of that valuable material began to be felt, and the first instructions for repairing the deficiency were given. This scarcitie at first,' says an observing writer of that time, grew as it is thought either by the industrie of man for mayntayning of tillage, or else through the covetousness of such as in preferring of pasture for their sheepe and greater cattle do make small account of fire-bote and timber, or finally by the crueltie of the enemies.'* The cause, however, already assigned operated probably more powerfully than any of these, excepting the first.

But it was the civil war in the reign of Charles I. which gave the first great blow to the forests and woods of England. · The estates of delinquents were minutely surveyed,--their aged oaks, like the old families which, owned them, were by these enemies of all that was elegant or venerable, doomed to destruction. In these patrician trees they beheld a kind of aristocracy--the royal forests, abo all, followed the fate of their unhappy master, and as all the Stuarts had uniformly felt a patriotic concern for the navy of England, it became one of the first cares of Charles II. after the restoration, to repair this formidable breach, which seemed to threaten the existence of England as a maritime, and consequently as an independent, power.

Laws enacted to limit and direct the administration of private property are never obeyed; and Charles was too sensible a man to think of compelling his subjects to plant, by fines and forfeitures for the omission. Example he knew would do something, and he had scope enough for the purpose in his own wasted forests; but an animated exhortation from the press, in an age when the nobility and gentry began to read, and to reflect, he knew would do more. A proper person for the purpose therefore was sought and found; a man of family, fortune, and learning; an experienced planter; a virtuoso, and not a little of an enthusiast in his own walk.

Such was Mr. Evelyn: and to this occasion we are indebted for the Sylva, which has therefore a title to be regarded as a national work. And surely every man of taste will rejoice that such an undertaking was not reserved for the improved science and cool didactic clearness of the present day. The Lionæan classification, the exact botanical arrangement, which has been hestowed, and very properly bestowed on the subject, by a modern editor, would have been dearly purchased at the price of that ancient and simple strain of piety, that amusing superstition, that multifarious reading, and,

* Harrison's Account of Britain prefixed to Hollinshead, ed. 1577.

above all, that tender and parental feeling with which Evelyn writes ve bis favourite subject. To say that a republication of the Sylva sa unnecessary because we know more of the subject, and, what ve do know, more accurately than Evelyn, is to say nothing. l'arro was a better, that is, a more practical agriculturist than Virgil: yet the Georgics have a thousand delighted readers, while the rei neca scriptor has a few curious critics. The truth is, that no man will sit down to the text of the Sylva as a book of science. Nar even the notes, valuable as they are, and reflecting many seful lights on the subject of planting, are capable of much improvement. In fact an experienced nursery-man in partnership with a tolerable botanist, would produce a better guide for the arden planter than the combined labours of the author and editor of the Sylva. But what would be the comparative effect ? On opening the one we are introduced into a magnificent forest, where de delighted imagination disdains to notice that the paths are zgled, and the undergrowth of shrubs and bushes is wasting itself 1 rank and idle luxuriance; while we should take up the other with the indifference of those who visit an infant seminary of forest trees, staked out and numbered on their several beds according to class and order. But the great and immediate use of the Sylva (to make use of the author's own expression) was that of a parane3-It sounded the trumpet of alarm to the nation on the condibir of their woods and forests. This was almost enough; for the truth is, that the science of planting is of no difficult attainment. 'He, who remembers that all the woods by which the wants of man bave been supplied froin the deluge till now were self sown, will not easily be persuaded to think all the art and preparation necessary, which the georgic writers prescribe to planters. Trees certainly bare covered the earth with very little culture: they wave their lops among the rocks of Norway, and might thrive as well in the Hięblands and Hebrides.'* And if men of fortune, among ourselves, can once be persuaded that the timber wanted for the British tary is in no long period likely to fail, and that therefore planting sa patriotic work; or if it can be demonstrated to their satisfaction, that, in addition to all the essential advantages conferred upon posterity

, it will, if entered upon in early life, besides the pleasing and gende occupation which it affords, be to themselves a profitable work—the end is achieved. In the course of their first experiments on soils and exposures, some miscarriages will take place, and soune mortifications be endured, but if they bear in mind one

line of the poet,

' Texendæ sepes tamen et pecus omne tenendum est,'

* Johnson's Journey to the Western Isles, p. 324. VOL. IX. NO. XVII.

without D

« AnteriorContinuar »