« PreviousContinue »
shed quotes the permission given by Probus to the natives to cul tivate the vine, and make wine from it. The testimony of Bede -the old notices of tithe on wine, which were common in Kent, Surrey, and other southern counties-the records of suits in the ecclesiastical courts-the inclosed patches of ground attached to numerous abbeys, which still bear the name of vineyards-the plot of ground called East Smithfield, which was converted into a vineyard, and held by four successive constables of the Tower, in the reigns of Rufus, Henry and .Stephen, to their great emolument and profit,' seem to remove all doubt on this question. The Isle of Ely was named, in the early times of the Normans, Ile de Vignes, the bishop of which received three or four tons of wine, yearly, for his tenth. So late as the reign of Richard II. the little park at Windsor was appropriated as a vineyard, for the use of the castle and William of Malmsbury asserts, that the vale of Gloucester produced, in the twelfth century, as good wine as many of the provinces of France. There is no province in England hath so many, or such good vineyards, as this country, either for fertility or sweetness of the grape; the wine whereof carrieth no unpleasant tartness, being not much inferior to French in sweetness.' It is remarkable enough that in a park near Berkeley, in this county, tendrils of vines are found springing up yearly among the grass, from one of which a cutting is now flourishing in the garden of Sir Joseph Banks. But wine is known to have been made in England at a much more recent period. Among the MS. notes of the late Peter Collinson, (to whom the European world is indebted for the introduction of some of its choicest plants,) is the following memorandum. Oct. 18th, 1765. I went to see Mr. Roger's vineyard, at Parson's Green, all of Burgundy grapes, and seemingly all perfectly ripe. I did not see a green half-ripe grape in all this great quantity. He does not expect to make less than fourteen hogsheads of wine. The branches and fruit are remarkably large, and the vines very strong.' These facts completely set aside the idea that the vineyards of England were apple-orchards, and that the wine was cider.
Nor is England the only country that has lost its wines by deterioration of climate; as the following fact, on which we can depend, testifies: Between Namur and Liege, the Meuse flows through a narrow valley, which, for picturesque scenery, and high cultivation is, perhaps, unequalled by any country in the world. The richest corn-fields and plantations of tobacco, and other luxuriant vegetables, occupy the space on both sides close to the river; while hop plantations and a series of vineyards are seen creeping towards the very summit of the rocks on the left bank. The vineyards appeared to be in a most luxuriant state when I saw
them, (in September, 1817,) but there was not a single bunch of grapes on any of them. I had conversation with many of the people, who all assured me that formerly they made most excellent wine, both red and white; but that for the last seven years they had not made a single bottle; yet they still went on from year to year in the cultivation of the vine, in the hope that favourable seasons might again return to what they had known them; or, which would be still better, to what they are said to have been some forty or fifty years ago.' But to us, at least, a prospect far more gloomy than the mere loss of wine had begun to present itself by the increasing chilliness of our summer months. It is too well known that there was not sufficient warmth in the summer of 1816 to ripen the grain; and it is generally thought, that if the ten or twelve days of hot weather at the end of June last had not occurred, most of the corn must have perished. This comes more home to the business and bosoms of the present generation, than the loss of 'those golden days when Bacchus smiled upon our hills.' It was sufficiently alarming to be told that Pomona is about to desert our orchards; and that on ground where the clustering vine once flourished, the apple has, of late years, scarcely ripened,' and that it is now sixteen years since the orchards have afforded a plentiful crop ;' that at no very remote period, our posterity may, in all probability, be in the same situation in regard to cider that we are now placed in with respect to wine; when the apple-tree, like the vine, will only afford a penurious supply of sour fruit, and will be cultivated in forcing houses to supply the tables of the rich.'*
From these melancholy forebodings, however, we feel ourselves considerably relieved by the removal of the principal cause, in the destruction of the vast fields of ice, of which we have been speaking; and think it is not unreasonable to presume that our summer climate (and winter too, when the wind blows from the western quarter) may henceforward improve; for though we are aware that the changes of temperature depend on a variety of causes, yet the single effect of an atmosphere chilled and condensed over a surface of at least 50,000 square miles of ice, rushing directly upon the British islands from the westward, may have been equal in its diminishing power to all the rest. That cause being now removed, so far from indulging in the gloomy prospect held out by the writer in the Journal we have just quoted, we are rather disposed to join in the recommendation of the Latin poet,
'Insere nunc, Melibae, pyros, pone ordine viteis.'
2. A central ridge of lofty mountains, covered with perpetual snow, and stretching from south to north, divides Old Greenland into two
*Journal of Science,
distinct parts, called, by the ancient Norwegian and Danish colonists, the East Bygd and West Bygd; between which all communication is totally cut off by land, and by sea also since the fixing of the icy barrier. The colony on the west side increased to four parishes, containing one hundred villages; but being engaged in perpetual hostility with the Esquimaux, the whole were ultimately destroyed by them. The ruins of some of the edifices were still visible in 1721, when that pious and amiable man, Hans Egede, went out with his whole family to settle there, on the re-establishment of a colony on that coast by the Greenland Company of Bergen in Norway. It still exists, and the population, taken but imperfectly in 1802, was found to amount to 5,621 souls; and we have since learnt that, including the Moravian establishments and the natives, who have mostly been converted to Christianity, the total population of the western coast of Greenland may now be estimated at not less than 20,000. They have a few cattle, and a considerable number of sheep, for whose winter subsistence they cut the grass in the summer months and make it into hay; but they have hitherto in vain endeavoured to breed hogs, these animals being unable to stand the severity of winter.
The Danish colony on the eastern was still more extensive than that on the western side. According to the Iceland Annals, it appears that it was first settled in the year 983, by Erick the Red; that the country was named Greenland, from its superior verdure to Iceland; that churches and convents were built, and a succession of bishops and pastors sent over; and that, from the latest accounts, it consisted of twelve parishes, one hundred and ninety villages, one bishop's see, and two convents; that, in the year 1406, when the seventeenth bishop was proceeding from Norway to take possession of his see, the ice had so closed in upon the coast, as to render it inaccessible. From that period, till last summer, all communication seems to have been cut off with the unfortunate colonists. It is related, however, by Thormoder Torfager, in his History of Greenland, that Bishop Amand, of Skalholt in Iceland, as he was return ing from Norway to that island about the middle of the sixteenth century, was driven by a storm on the east coast of Greenland, off Herjolsness, immediately opposite to Iceland, which the vessel approached so near that the people on board could distinguish the inhabitants driving their cattle in the meadows; but the wind coming fair, they made all sail for Iceland, which they reached the following day, and came to anchor in the Bay of St. Patrick.-Of all the attested relations, this of Bishop Amand, says Hans Egede, 'deserves most to be credited:' by this,' he continues, 'we learn that the colony of the eastern district did flourish about a hundred and fifty years after the commerce and navigation ceased between
VOL. XVIII. NO. XXXV.
Norway and Greenland; and, for aught we know, is not yet wholly destitute of its old Norwegian inhabitants.'
It has been supposed, by some writers, that the black death, which, in 1348, desolated Europe, extended its ravages to Greenland; but this assumption, as Mr. Egede observes, is without any foundation, as an uninterrupted intercourse appears to have been maintained with the colony for fifty-eight years after this dreadful malady had ceased. He thinks, however, that, partly by the change of the government in Queen Margaret's reign, and partly from the continual wars which ensued between the Danes and the Swedes, the Greenland colonists may have been neglected; for it does not appear that any steps were taken for a century, after the unsuccessful attempts of the bishop to land, when the Christians and the Fredericks, calling to mind these remote and long-neglected possessions, took measures for inquiring into the fate of their unfortunate subjects. One Mogens Heinson, a celebrated seaman of those days, was employed among others on this service. After many difficulties he got sight of the coast, but could not approach it; and the reason he assigned, on his return, was, that his ship was stopped in the midst of its course by some loadstone rocks hidden in the sea.' Many subsequent attempts were made, but all proved ineffectual.
Endeavours were also used to ascertain their fate from the colony on the western side, by coasting round Staatenhoek; and in one of these expeditions Egede himself embarked, but was obliged to return without being able to effect his humane purpose. The Esquimaux pretend that they are afraid to approach the eastern shore, which they say is inhabited by a tall and barbarous race of men, who live on human flesh. Thus has terror or malice created cannibals on every unknown or uncivilized part of the globe! After so many attempts, both public and private, how the Danes can now pretend to doubt, as one of their writers affects to do, whether there ever was a colony on the eastern side, is, to us, quite inexplicable, unless it be to palliate their negligence at the first approach of the ice, and their want of humanity since. The Danish government however eutertained no such doubts; for so late as the year 1786, Captain Lowenorn, of the Danish navy, was sent out for the express purpose of re-discovering the old colony on the eastern coast. The particulars of this voyage, we believe, were not made public; but the following extract of a letter from Mr. Fenwick (the British consul) to the secretary of the Admiralty, dated Elsineur, 9th September, 1786, proves its failure:-'Captain Lowenorn repassed, three days ago, for Copenhagen, after a fruitless search, of about two months, to find out the Old Greenland; not having been able to penetrate to where it is supposed to be, on account of endless shoals of ice. He left, however, Lieutenants Egede and Rhode, in the New Experiment fishing dogger, to seize any more favourable oppor
tunity which may offer, better than he met with, for penetrating farther, if practicable, to operate any new discoveries after his departure, though entertaining very poor hopes of any success.' These lieutenants, we believe, never once got sight of the land.
It has fallen to the lot of the present age to have an opportunity, which we are sure will not be neglected, of instituting an inquiry into the fate of these unfortunate colonies. If, as is most probable, the whole race has perished, some remains may yet be found, some vestiges be traced, which may throw light on their condition after the fatal closing of the ice upon them. It is just possible that some tradition may have been handed down through a succession of a mixed race of descendants; or some inscriptions may, perhaps, be discovered on the remains of the cathedral, or the convents, which are said to have been built of stone. But even if no traces should be found, the research is an object of rational curiosity; and it would be satisfactory, at least, to have all doubt removed on a subject of so interesting and affecting a nature.
S. Any event that tends to encourage the attempt to amend the very defective geography of the arctic regions, more especially on the side of America, may be hailed as an important occurrence. The removal of the ice may be considered to afford a fair opportunity for prosecuting discoveries in that quarter-for endeavouring to circumnavigate Old Greenland, and to settle the long disputed question as to its insularity, or its connexion with the American continent-to examine the sea usually named Baffin's Bay on the charts and to attempt the solution of that interesting problem, whether a free and uninterrupted communication exists between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, round the northern coast of North America.
Several circumstances may be adduced in support of the opinion that Greenland is either an island or an archipelago of islands, in which case Baffin's Bay must be expunged from the charts. A perpetual current, setting down from the northward, along the eastern coast of America, and the western shores of Old Greenland, affords a strong presumption, that between Davis's Strait and the great polar basin, there is an uninterrupted communication; for if Greenland were united with the continent of America, and Davis's Strait terminated in Baffin's Bay, it would be difficult to explain how any current could originate at the bottom of such a bay, much less a current that is stated to run sometimes with a velocity of four and even five miles an hour. But this is not the only argument in favour of the continuance of an open sea to the northward. Vast quantities of drift-wood are floated down this northern current, as well as down the eastern side of Greenland, sometimes filling all the bays on the northern coast of