The Natural History of Wiltshire eBook

John Aubrey
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 207 pages of information about The Natural History of Wiltshire.

The stratification of the crust of our globe, and the division of its surface into land and water, was a fertile theme for conjecture; and many learned and otherwise sagacious writers, assigned imaginary causes for the results which they attempted to explain.

The chapter of Aubrey’s work which bears the above title is, to some extent, of this nature.  It consists chiefly of speculative opinions extracted from other works, with a few conjectures of his own, which, though based upon the clear and judicious views of his friend Robert Hooke, do not, upon the whole, deserve much consideration; although to the curious in the history of Geological science they may appear interesting.  Its author had sufficient diffidence as to the merits of this chapter to describe it as “a digression; ad mentem Mr. R. Hook, R.S.S.”; and his friend Ray, in a letter already quoted, observes, after commending other portions of the present work, “I find but one thing that may give any just offence; and that is, the Hypothesis of the Terraqueous Globe; wherewith I must confess myself not to be satisfied:  but that is but a digression, and aliene from your subject; and so may very well be left out”.  Ray’s work on “Chaos and Creation” published in 1692, a year after the date of this letter, was a valuable contribution to the geological knowledge of the time.  Some notes by Evelyn, on Aubrey’s original Ms., shew that he was at least equally credulous with the author.

Aubrey concludes that the universal occurrence of “petrified fishes’ shells gives clear evidence that the earth hath been all covered over with water”.  He assumes that the irregularities and changes in the earth’s surface were occasioned by earthquakes; and has inserted in his manuscript, from the London Gazette, accounts of three earthquakes, in different parts of Italy, in the years 1688 and 1690.  A small 4to pamphlet, being “A true relation of the terrible Earthquake which happened at Ragusa, and several other cities in Dalmatia and Albania, the 6th of April 1667”, is also inserted in the Ms. Aubrey observes:  “As the world was torne by earthquakes, as also the vaulture by time foundred and fell in, so the water subsided and the dry land appeared.  Then, why might not that change alter the center of gravity of the earth?  Before this the pole of the ecliptique perhaps was the pole of the world”.  And in confirmation of these views he quotes several passages from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book i. fab. 7. 8.  He also cites the scheme of Father Kircher, of the Society of Jesus, which, in a section of the globe, represents it as “full of cavities, and resembling the inside of a pomegranade”, the centre being marked with a blazing fire, or “ignis centralis”.  “But now”, writes Aubrey in 1691, “Mr. Edmund Halley, R.S.S., hath an hypothesis that the earth is hollow, about five hundred miles thick; and that a terella moves within it, which causes the variation of the needle; and in the center a sun”. 

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The Natural History of Wiltshire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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