115. Change of Climate.


It is long since many, of whom I am one, says Lord Dreghorn, have maintained that the seasons are altered; that it is not so hot now in summer as when we were boys. Others laugh at this, and say, that the supposed alteration proceeds from an alteration in ourselves; from our 223having become older, and consequently colder. In 1783 or 1784, in the course of a conversation I had with my brewer, who is very intelligent and eminent in his way, he maintained that an alteration had taken place. This observation he made from a variety of circumstances; the diminution of the number of swallows, the coldness that attends rain, the alteration in the hours of labour at the time of sowing barley, which a great many years ago was a work performed very early in the morning on account of the intenseness of the heat after the sun had been up some time. He added, that for many years past, he had found, that the barley did not malt as formerly, and the period he fixed on was the year in which the earthquake at Lisbon happened. I was much surprised at this last observation, and did not pay much attention to it till last summer, when I happened to read Les Annales Politiques 224of Linguet, a very scarce book, which I was sure my brewer had never read; for there to my astonishment, I found the very same opinion, with this additional fact, that in Champagne, where he was born, they have not been able since that earthquake to make the same wine. He says too, that he has seen the title-deeds of several estates in Picardy, which proved that at that time they had a number of excellent vineyards, but that now no such crop can be reared there. He also attempts to account philosophically for that earthquake having such effects.

Thus far lord Dreghorn. The country about Placencia (the retreat of Charles V,) once one of the most fertile parts of Spain, is said by the inhabitants to have lost its fertility since that great earthquake. It is another extraordinary fact upon the same subject, that the herring fishery on our eastern coast commences now a 225month later than it did in the days of our grandfathers.

That the climate of England is changed within the last half century, it now generally admitted. Mr. Williams has lately attempted to account for it, by the great introduction of foreign trees and grasses, which, being natives of hotter climates, give out a far greater evaporation than our own indigenous vegetables. I have only seen an account of this gentleman’s book, not the book itself. The fact is very curious, and the application highly ingenious. But it is manifest that this solution is not adequate to the phenomenon: for change of climate is equally complained of in other countries, where planting is not in fashion, and where no improvements in agriculture have been introduced. To those countries it is not applicable, neither will it explain the increased prevalence of west and south-west winds.

226Mr. Williams proposes that electric mills should be erected over the country, to supply electricity to the atmosphere, when there is a deficiency, and draw it off when there is an excess. Darwin’s scheme for towing Ice-islands to the Tropics was nothing when compared to this. But let philosophy tell us all its dreams: the more projects the better; there is no danger of their being adopted before they have been well weighed, and though ninety-nine may deserve the ridicule which the whole hundred are sure to incur, the hundredth may nevertheless succeed.


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