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"Or, if we must needs feed upon something else, why may not smells nourish us? Plutarch and Pliny, and divers other ancients, tell us of a nation in India that lived only upon pleasing odours. And 'tis the common opinion of physicians, that these do strangely both strengthen and repair the spirits. Hence was it, that Democritus was able, for divers days together, to feed himself with the mere smell of hot bread.
"Or if it be necessary that our stomachs must receive the food, why then it is not impossible that the purity of the sethereal air, being not mixed with any improper vapours, may be so agreeable to our bodies, as to yield us sufficient nourishment.
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"I know it is the common opinion, that no element can prove aliment, because it is not proportionate to the bodies of living creatures which are compounded. But,
"1.—This sethereal air is not an element; and though it be purer, yet it is perhaps of a greater agreeableness to man's nature and constitution.
"2.—If we consult experience and the credible relations of others, we shall find it probable enough, that many things receive nourishment from mere elements.
"First, for the earth; Aristotle and Pliny, those two great naturalists, tell us of some creatures that are fed only with this. And it was the curse of the serpent, Gen. 3. 14. Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
"So likewise for the water. Albertus Magnus speaks of a man who lived several weeks together by the mere drinking of water. Rondoletius (to whose diligence these later times are much beholding for sundry observations concerning the nature of aquatils) affirms, that his wife did keep a fish in a glass of water, without any other food, for three years, in which space it was constantly augmented, till at first it could not come out of the place at which it was put in, and at length was too big for the glass itself, though that were of a large capacity. Cardan tells us of some worms that are bred and nourished by the snow, from which being once separated, they die.
"Thus also is it with the air, which we may well conceive does chiefly concur to the nourishing of all vegetables. For if their food were all sucked out from the earth, there must needs be then some sensible decay in the ground by them, especially since they do every year renew their leaves and fruits; which being so many, and so often, could not be produced without abundance of nourishment. To this purpose is the experiment of trees cut down, which will of themselves put forth sprouts. As also that of onions and the semper-vive, which will strangely shoot forth, and grow as they hang in the open air. Thus likewise is it with some sensible creatures; the camelion (saith Pliny and Solinus)is merely nourished by this; and so are the birds of paradise, treated of by many, which reside constantly in the air, nature having not bestowed upon them any legs, and therefore they are never seen upon the ground but being dead. If you ask how they multiply? Tis answered, they lay their eggs on the backs of one another, upon which they sit till their young ones be fledged. Rondoletius, from the history of Hermolaus Barbarus, tells us of a priest (of whom one of the popes had the custody) that lived forty years upon mere air. As also of a maid in France, and another in Germany, that for divers years together did feed on nothing but this: nay, he affirms that he himself had seen one who lived till ten years of age without any other nourishment. You may find most of these, and some other examples to this purpose, gathered together by Mendoca. Viridar. lib. 4. prob. 23, 24. Now, if this elementary air, which is mixed with such improper vapors, may accidentally nourish some persons, perhaps then, that pure sethereal air may of itself be more natural to our tempers.
"But if none of these conjectures may satisfy, yet there may happily be some possible means for the conveyance of other food, as shall be shewed afterwards.
This grand difficulty once mastered, the road to the moon seems easy enough: at least, so thinks the bishop. Accordingly, he crows through half a dozen pages over the ingenious discovery thus made and explained, and it is not till he gets to the very end of his treatise that he stumbles upon another difficulty, which well nigh destroys the whole speculation. For, though he has provided in the notable way already described for overcoming the cold and rarity of the atmosphere, and for a full supply of sleep and food by the road, he has yet left one small element out of his calculation, without which this goodly scheme falls to pieces. For how, in the name of wonder, are we to be conveyed? Little would it boot a man bound for the East Indies to assure him, that he may get biscuits and fresh water at Madeira and the Cape, that he may sleep upon the passage as much as he likes, and to demonstrate to him with all possible clearness, that the human body may pass along the surface of the waters, unless you provided him with vessel, rudder, compass, and all the means of actual navigation. Some thought like this seems to have struck the bishop in the midst of his triumph, and to have brought him down from the clouds rather precipitately. Nil desperandum, however; so he takes heart, and after cudgelling his brains for a while, he actually presents us not with one conveyance only, but with a choice.
"If it be here inquired, what means there may be conjectured for our ascending beyond the sphere of the earth's magnetical vigour.
"I answer. 1. It is not perhaps impossible that a man may be able to fly, by the application of wings to his own body; as angels are pictured, as Mercury and Dsedalus are feigned, and as hath been attempted by divers, particularly by a Turk in Constantinople, as Busbequius relates.
"2. If there be such a great ruck in Madagascar, as Marcus
Polus, the Venetian, mentions, the feathers in whose wings are twelve feet long, which can soop up a horse and his rider, or an elephant, as our kites do a mouse; why then it is but teaching one of these to carry a man, and he may ride up thither, as Ganymede does upon an eagle.
"Or if neither of these ways will serve, yet I do seriously, and upon good grounds, affirm it possible to make a flying chariot, in which a man may sit, and give such a motion unto it, as shall convey him through the air. And this perhaps might be made large enough to carry divers men at the same time, together with food for their viaticum, and commodities for traffic. It is not the bigness of any thing in this kind, that can hinder its motion, if the motive faculty be answerable thereunto. We see a great ship swims as well as a small cork, and an eagle flies in the air as well as a little gnat.
"This engine may be contrived from the same principles by which Archytas made a wooden dove, and Regiomontanus a wooden eagle.
"I conceive it were no difficult matter (if a man had leisure) to shew more particularly the means of composing it."
To which commodious and available vehicles, we marvel, that the bishop did not think of adding the Beetle, on which Trygasus, in 2 he Peace, of Aristophanes, performs a similar journey.
Such, then, is one of the serious speculations in which a learned prelate in the days of Charles II. was wont to busy himself. We have thought it right, in these times of ingenuity and research, once more to direct the attention of such projectors as may have less of common sense than of. leisure and money, to a scheme which a hundred and fifty years ago seemed very promising, but which has latterly fallen into unmerited oblivion. We beg it may be observed, that our duty is now discharged; and that if a passage to the moon is not speedily discovered by some aerial Parry, no blame can, in common justice, be attached either to, Bishop Wilkins or to The Retrospective Review.
Art. XI.—The Memoirs of the Honourable Sir John Reresby, Bart, arid last Governor of York, containing several Private and Remarkable Transactions, from the Restoration to the Revolution inclusively. Published from the original Manuscript. London: printed for Samuel Harding, Bookseller on the Pavement in St. Martin's Lane, 1734.
The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby belong to that rare and valuable class of works, which appear to have been written not so much with any view towards fame or emolument, as for the private ends and satisfaction of the writers themselves. Not being professedly an author, he is divested of that formality and constraint, which mostly characterize those, who, writing avowedly for the world's eye, think it necessary, before they appear in public, to compose their features into an aspect of studied dignity. Easy and concise, simple and unaffected, in language such as a well-educated gentleman of the day might be supposed to use without effort or study, he relates the history of the times, as a man might tell his story to a friend. As no person is a hero by his own fire-side, we are spared all those elaborate encomiums on. the author's self and friends—those eloquent complaints of unrewarded services and the world's ingratitude—that studied abuse of political adversaries, and those fulsome panegyrics on people in power, which, like the exterior decorations of dress, are laid aside, as tending to make a man look ridiculous in private, and are only assumed when an author has to appear upon the stage of the world. Though both from interest and prejudice attached to the court, he does not appear to have entertained for it that religious devotion, which thinks it impiety to see any thing but rectitude in its measures, or aught but malice in those of its opponents. It being, therefore, no article of his creed, that a man is to deliver over his judgement and intellect into the hands of his party, he has not thought it a crime occasionally to make use of his discernment,- but shewn considerable penetration in detecting the real, though not always apparent motives,- which dictated the measures of government. For example, when in 1677 Charles II. was playing that deep game with his parliament, through which he hoped to have extorted supplies, by flattering them with the prospect of a war with France, our author was not to be deceived by the specious argument of the court. "How can I," reasoned his majesty, " depend on my parliament to furnish me with regular and equal supplies to carry on a war, which they will not so much as enable me to prepare for?" "But I easily saw through this," observes Sir John, " I plainly perceived it was all artifice to get the fingering of the money." Thus sharp-sighted enough in reading the sentiments of men, through the disguise which they generally assume, his summary view of the events of the time and the complicated intrigues of faction, both in parliament and at court, is much more consistent and unembarrassed than contemporary writers have always been able to transmit. No dupe to hollow professions, nor taking men, on their words, to be what they represented themselves—apparently rather chusing not to perceive than actually blind to the faults of one party—and sometimes not so much believing as seeming to believe what was said against the other, he was of the number of those politicians, who see clearly to a certain extent, without being able, or, perhaps, willing to look beyond. His natural sagacity, sharpened by interest, made him a quick observer of the movements of parties and the course of intrigues, whilst prejudice, combined with a certain degree of interest also, rendered him unfit to take any large or patriotic view of the nature, consequences, and tendency of the various measures and proceedings which fell under his observation. It was thus that without any peculiar dereliction of political principle, (for though a courtier, and in a profligate court, we believe him to have been reasonably honest,) he was enabled to persevere, through good report and bad report, the constant supporter of two successive governments, among the very worst by which the affairs of the nation have ever been conducted. Sir John Reresby was one of that race of men, formerly so numerous in this country, but now, thank heaven, nearly extinct, who had their principles, like their estates, transmitted to them by inheritance, and were loyal because their fathers were. That kings could not be fickle and unprincipled—courts entertain improper views, nor ministers act with tyranny and injustice, he did not feel himself bound to believe; but farther than this, his spirit of opposition never appears to have led him—to resist what was injurious and despotic, or even to forbear lending himself as an agent, would have seemed to him nothing short of actual treason against the crown. Right or wrong, the court was to be obeyed and served —the opposition weakened and resisted.
It was in the year 1659, when our author, a gay young man, just returned from his travels, and, as we have observed, a loyalist by birth, not relishing the grave severity of the English court, betook himself to Paris, where he got an introduction to the queen mother, then residing at the Palais Royal. He had only once been near the person of the Protector, at the audience of an ambassador at Whitehall; so he "can only say, that his figure did not come up to his character: he was, indeed, a likely person, but not handsome, nor had he a very bold look with him. He was plain in his apparel, and rather negligent than not." Sir John, who was all his life through a quick observer of those little natural signs that portend a change in the tide of opinion, and pretty clearly indicate in what direction the current is about to set, now perceived that a way was paved to facilitate the king's return, though " the Rump still kept up some face of state." This reason, probably, as much as any other, influenced his departure: and on his arrival at Paris, he found the aspect of things there very different from that which they had worn a year or two before, when