And while on the subject, permit me to remark, with reference to the article on the Domestic Expenses of Queen Elizabeth (page 41.), that there are plenty of such documents in existence, and that the only test of their value and authenticity is a reference to where they may be found, which is wanting in the article in question.
A Peal of Bells.—In No. 8 of your interesting and valuable journal, I find a query, from the REV. A. GATTY, relative to a peal of bells. Now the science of bell-ringing being purely English, we can expect to find the explanation sought for, only in English authors. Dr. Johnson says peal means a “succession of sounds;” and in this way it is used by many old writer, thus:—
“A peal shall rouse their sleep.”—MILTON.
And again Addison:—
“Oh for a peal of thunder that would
Earth, sea, and air, and heaven, and Cato tremble.”
Bacon also hath it:—
“Woods of oranges
will smell into the sea perhaps twenty miles; but
what is that, since a peal of ordnance will do as much, which
moveth in a small compass?”
It is once used by Shakespeare, Macbeth:—
“Ere to black Hecate’s summons
The shard-borne beetle, with drowsy hums,
Hath rung night’s yawning peal, there shall be done
A deed of dreadful note.”
Will not ringing a peal, then, mean a succession of sweet sounds caused by the ringing of bells in certain keys? Some ringers begin with D flat; others, again, contend they should begin in C sharp.
In your last number is a query about Scarborough Warning. Grose, in his Provincial Glossary, give the meaning as “a word and a blow, and the blow first;” it is a common proverb in Yorkshire. He gives the same account of its origin as does Ray, extracted from Fuller, and gives no notion that any other can be attached to it.
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I should be very glad to have some distinct information on the above subject, especially in explanation of any repositories of human bones in England? Was the ancient preservation of these skeleton remains always connected with embalming the body?—or drying it, after the manner described by Captain Smythe, R.N., to be still practised in Sicily?—and, in cases in which dry bones only were preserved, by what process was the flesh removed from them? for, as Addison says, in reference to the catacombs at Naples, “they must have been full of stench, if the dead bodies that lay in them were left to rot in open niches.” The catacombs at Paris seem to have been furnished with bones from the emptyings of the metropolitan churchyards. In some soils, however, the bones rot almost as soon as the flesh decays from them.