MacMillan's Reading Books eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 344 pages of information about MacMillan's Reading Books.


[Note:  Rev. Gilbert White (1720-1793), author of the ’Natural History of Selborne,’ one of the most charming books on natural history in the language.]

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The, summer of the year 1783 was an amazing and portentous one, and full of horrible phenomena; for, besides the alarming meteors and tremendous thunder and storms that affrighted and distressed the different counties of this kingdom, the peculiar haze, or smoky fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man.  By my journal I find that I had noticed this strange occurrence from June 23 to July 20 inclusive, during which period the wind varied to every quarter, without making any alteration in the air.  The sun, at noon, looked as black as a clouded moon, and shed a rust-coloured feruginous light on the ground and floors of rooms, but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting.  All the time the heat was so intense that butchers’ meat could hardly be eaten the day after it was killed; and the flies swarmed so in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic, and riding irksome.  The country-people began to look with a superstitious awe at the red, lowering aspect of the sun; and, indeed, there was reason for the most enlightened person to be apprehensive, for all the while Calabria, and part of the isle of Sicily, were torn and convulsed with earthquakes; and about that juncture a volcano sprang out of the sea on the coast of Norway.  On this occasion Milton’s noble simile of the sun, in his first book of ‘Paradise Lost,’ frequently occurred to my mind; and it is indeed particularly applicable, because, towards the end, it alludes to a superstitious kind of dread with which the minds of men are always impressed by such strange and unusual phenomena:—­

                     “As when the sun, new risen,

Looks through the horizontal, misty air
Shorn of his beams; or, from behind the moon. 
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs.”


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On the 5th of June, 1784, the thermometer in the morning being at 64, and at noon at 70, the barometer at 29.6 1/2, and the wind north, I observed a blue mist, smelling strongly of sulphur, hang along our sloping woods, and seeming to indicate that thunder was at hand.  I was called in about two in the afternoon, and so missed seeing the gathering of the clouds in the north, which they who were abroad assured me had something uncommon in its appearance.  At about a quarter

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MacMillan's Reading Books from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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