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For JANUARY, 1800.

ART. I. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Vol. IV. 4to. pp. 480. 11. 1s. Boards. Cadell jun. and Davies, London; Dickson, and Balfour, Edinburgh. 1798.

To pay due honour to the illustrious dead, by preserving the remembrance and thus prolonging the influence of great virtues and singular talents, is a duty which we ought gladly to impose on ourselves. It is a duty, too, of which the world thankfully acknowleges the performance, by displaying a solicitude for all accounts relative to good and wise men, which is at the same time. a just tribute paid to departed excellence. This eagerness is in course proportional to the reputation of those whose history is related. It is no idle curiosity which incites us to inspect the hours of relaxation, and of friendly converse, of one whose writings taught mankind to think, to judge, and to act; and which induces us to listen to what he said wisely or wittily, to his sentences of observation and his sallies of raillery." It is no weak motive which makes us desirous of knowing whether he, who demonstrated how the universe is poised and regulated, was on other subjects superior to the rest of mankind; and whether he settled the nature of moral duty with peculiar nicety of discernment and exactness of judgment, or could, when occasion demanded, persuade to virtue, exalt affection, and exhilarate despondency.

In all large societies, there is a considerable portion of men who are wise and virtuous to a certain extent; only possessing talents somewhat above mediocrity, discharging their ordinary duties with propriety, cautiously prudent rather than zealously benevolent, never inordinately depraved nor splendidly good. Of such persons, the opinions are rather not to be controverted than to be admired; their observations are generally made on the surface of things; their minds, not enterprizing nor excursive, are confined to the beaten and common tracts of human knowlege; and if, in their writings, truth receives a VOL. XXXI.



new form and some new embellishments, she cannot boast of any great augmentation of her substance and riches.


Men of this description are esteemed, and deservedly; friends and acquaintance cherish their memory: but their contemporaries and posterity, while regarding their lives with approbation, must view their history with an alloy of indifference; it contains little that is extraordinary, interesting, or brilliant; and, if variegated, only by trivial events, and by the common griefs and pleasures which daily happen to thousands.

When is biography interesting ?-when it excites curiosity by reporting the little things of great men; rouses attention by splendid events and busy scenes; elevates affection by tales of distress or goodness; excites to virtue by records of eminent excellence; raises mirth by witty sayings and humorous anecdotes; or when it enlarges knowlege and corrects judgment by profound remarks and curious criticisms.

These observations, which are sufficiently obvious, occurred to us during the perusal of the biographical portion of the present volume, which is divided, as usual, into three parts; containing the History, the Appendix, and the Memoirs.-In the first, among other matters, we find notice of a method, suggested by the Rev. Mr. Fisher, for solving all cases of plane and spherical triangles; which is more commodious than the methods of Napier and Pingré.-The Appendix contains the lives of Lord Abercromby, one of the Senators of the College of Justice; of Wm. Tytler, Esq.; of Mr. Wm. Hamilton, late Professor of Anatomy and Botany, at Glasgow; and of John Roebuck, M. D.

The materials for this biographical part, looking to the inte rest which they can excite, appear to us scanty and inefficacious; and we have to wish that the little which was to be said had been said in a different manner. We would willingly exchange the general terms and long phrases, which seem to involve virtues and talents that were splendid and various, for distinct instances of goodness, and evident specimens of mental ability; we would resign abstract designations, in order to gain sensible images. As the lives are now written, we might venture to say, without fearing any very severe retort for want of feeling and judgment, that the perusal of them has made us neither merrier, wiser, nor better; and that characters, so obscurely pourtrayed, impress the mind for a moment faintly and confusedly, and then leave it without a clear object of admiration or a specific model of imitation.

May we not indulge a reasonable hope that the Society of Edinburgh will cease to doom learning and genius to labour on


unprofitable subjects? and that, when they have (as undoubtedly they frequently have had) deceased merit to exhibit and to praise, they would not shew its faint, distorted, and enlarged image through the mist of thick panegyric, but give to it a palpable substance, a distinct and sensible shape.-We will not count the worthy men of England against those of Scotland: but, if the panegyric of every Englishman, distinguished for his talents and good qualities, were published, who would not complain of the superfætation of the press? The evil might indeed cure itself, by generating a new one; and, since so few biographical accounts could be interesting, all would be alike neglected.

Dismissing this part of the volume with these remarks, we shall proceed to give an account of the Memoirs.


Opens with a long paper entitled Account of a Mineral from Strontian, and of a peculiar Species of Earth which it contains. By Thomas Charles Hope, M. D. F. R.S. Edinburgh. Professor of Medicine, Glasgow.

The substance of this paper having been printed in the 3d volume of the Society, and reported in our account of it, (see Rev. vol. xix. N.S. p. 242.) we need not now detain our readers with a more extended account of it.

Observations on the Natural History of Guiana. By William Lochead, Esq.-These observations relate to the Coasts, Winds, Dews, Temperature, Seasons, Country, Savannahs, Rivers, Creeks, and Floods; and they will, no doubt, be useful to the historian of Guiana. The remarks made on the subject of Creeks are particularly deserving of notice:

Creeks. A number of creeks fall into the Demerary on both sides, but so small that they bear no proportion to the size of the river. You can hardly distinguish their mouths in the woods which overhang the banks. They are so narrow that it is difficult to run a small boat in them; yet you will find in them throughout from two and a half to four fathom water, and they run winding so far back that it will take five, six, eight hours, or more, to carry you up to their heads, where they terminate in small streams from among the sand-hills. The banks of the creeks at their mouths are of the same height as those of the river close by, from five perhaps to twelve feet above the water in the dry season. As you ascend the creek, you might naturally expect to find them rise. It is however the very reverse; they become gradually lower and lower, till at last all round them is a swamp; and the trees on each side in like manner become smaller and smaller, and of different species from what they were. It is now in short exactly a mangrove swamp, with this difference, that the water is quite fresh, the vegetables are not the same, and there



are abundance of arunis and other low herbaceous plants. A little higher up, you lose the wood altogether, and find yourself in a beautiful deep canal, winding through a spacious wet savannah, which is sometimes many leagues in circumference. The first time we went up one of these creeks, (called Camouni), I was surprised at this appearance, and thought it must be a mere local circumstance peculiar to it. We found afterwards the same in one or two more instances, and were satisfied upon enquiry, that it is common to them all. It was natural to look for an explanation of this phenomenon, and I soon found it in one of those laws, which probably extend to all rivers subject to frequent inundations. It has been observed, in particular, of the Ganges, that the banks of that river are higher than the adjacent lands at a distance from the stream, owing, no doubt, to the annual depositions of mud, &c. during the swell of the river. Apply the same rule to the Demerary, and the difficulty will be solved. The wet savannah behind, and the swampy woods around them, are the body of the low country at its natural level, scarcely a foot or two above the sea. Whatever additional height the land has in the vicinity of the iver, from the time you have ascended about twenty miles or so, is all acquired. It has arisen from the sediment of the river during the rainy season, when the country is overflowed so as that all the lower part of it is under water. This depoIsition must be always more copious, in proportion as it is nearer the stream, where additional quantities are always brought, and where it is kept in motion both by the current and the tide. Every thing which we afterwards saw confirmed this theory, and nothing more directly than the canals which run out at right angles from the river. Some of these extend four miles inward, and they prove to a demonstration, that the land becomes lower and lower the farther you recede from the river. The maps of the colonies confirm it; for in all of them the main body of the low land of Guiana is laid down as savannah, and the woody country, which a stranger or superficial observer would suppose to be the whole or much the greater part of it, is in fact only a border on the sides of the rivers and of the sea, but of considerable breadth, more or less, in proportion to the size of the adjoining river, or, which is generally the same thing, to the acquired height and extent of the soil on either bank. It followed as a consequence, and, as far as we had opportunities of observing, we found it to be the case, that the low land was somewhat higher, and continued so farther down, about the Essequebo than the Demerary; the woods consequently were of greater extent. We found, besides, in the soil adjoining the Essequebo, at least upon the east side, a mixture of sand. The river is full of sand-banks; and it appears, that the finer parts of even this less suspensible substance are raised by the floods and carried among the adjacent woods to be deposited with the mud. The Mahayka, a small river or creek which falls into the sea about twenty or thirty miles to the castward of the Demerary, though it runs a long way up the country, and spreads into many branches, has but a

Account of the Ganges, &c. Phil. Trans. 1781, by M.


very narrow, and often interrupted border of wood upon its banks; it runs through an immense savannah, and so do its branches, with little or no wood, till they approach the sand-hills. The Deltas of the river of Oroonoko, and its numerous mouths, make a figure even in the map of the world. It is to be regretted, that its noble stream has been so long hid from science. What I learned in Trinidad from a gentleman, who had sailed from its mouth to the Angusturas, about 300 miles up, confirms and illustrates, in the fullest manner, the above general rule. The western mouths of it opposite Trinidad, are navigable only for launches drawing six or seven feet water. At and opposite them, the bottom is shallow and muddy, and the coast a low mangrove swamp, resembling, in all respects, that of Guiana. You must ascend those branches several days before you reach the main stream; and in doing so, you find the same phenomena as in ascending the Demerary, but in a still greater degree. At first you have the mangrove, or some similar swamp, and behind it on both sides for about twenty leagues, the land, if you can call it so, hardly emerging from the water. Afterwards the ground appears; and, as you go up, rises still higher and higher on the banks above the common level of the stream. The trees become, in the same manner, of different species, and much taller than they were below. The channel in which you are, from being wide, grows narrower by degrees. It is from about one and a half to three-fourths of a mile broad near the entrance; and, when it joins the main stream, is not more than about 200 yards. It has then acquired a considerable depth, and the banks may be about twenty feet high. Along the main stream of the river, or Boca de Nasios, the gradual rise, and other circumstances attending it, are quite similar. All this height of the bank, I can make no doubt, is entirely acquired ground, formed by the sediment of the foods, greater near the streams than at a distance from them; and though I have no knowledge of the nature of the land in the Deltas and their vicinity, I would not hesitate to say, that great part of the interior body of each island, and most probably of the main on either side, where it is low country, consists of nothing else than wet savannahs.

A short Paper on the Principles of the antecedental Calculus. By James Glenie, Esq. M. A. F. R. S. London and Edinb.

This memoir is said to be published at the suggestion of the author's friends, in order to elucidate and establish more firmly the principles of the antecedental calculus. The nature of the paper, and its reference to other works, nearly preclude both extract and comment. The principles of the fluxionary calculus have not, till of late years, been clearly and' rightly established: but, whatever advantages the antecedental calculus may possess over the fluxionary in extent of application, it is inferior to it in evidence. If Mr. Glenie has arrived at truth, he has travelled to it by an entangled and abrupt path.

In the latter part of the memoir, the author promises soon to give the application of his calculus to several physical pro



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