« PředchozíPokračovat »
of publishing the proofs on which his narrative rested, but we have not heard that the design was ever fulfilled.
It has been thought incredible, and may still seem strange, that a person of no greater importance than the duke of Mantua's agent should have been the object of those anxious precautions which distinguished the captivity of this unfortunate. Allowance must, however, be made for the false lights which have been thrown upon his fate by exaggeration and by pure fiction. That Louis the Fourteenth and such a minister as Louvois should doom Matthioli to perpetual imprisonment, and decree that no man should from thenceforth hear his story or even look upon his face, was, under the circumstances, not surprizing. His crime was peculiar: he had not only broken faith with the government of the great monarch, but exposed his baffled intrigue to the petty courts of Italy. Pride and resentment called aloud for his destruction, and policy concurred in the demand, if Louis still cherished his views of Transalpine encroachment. The sentence pronounced under these impulses was not likely to be revoked or essentially mitigated. He who could have told Europe how Louis had avenged his wounded dignity by an act of lawless and unworthy outrage, was never more to be trusted in free converse with mankind. He was to be as one dead, although the king's hand was kept free from his blood. To invent means of effecting this design was the business of inferior agents, whose whole ambition centered in the perfect fulfilment of commands. The expedients used by them (if we confine our attention to those authentically recorded) were not perhaps more complicated or elaborate than the service required, and even if they were so, the history of state prisons (of the Bastille especially) will supply many other instances of fantastic and curious precaution, harassing alike to captive and to keeper, adopted from the mere excess and refinement of jealousy; as if in the practice of oppression, as of better arts, men learned to seek an excellence beyond the immediate need, and approach an ideal standard of perfect cruelty.
Such then is the true story of Marchiali, a tale no longer romantic or mysterious, but still worthy of historical remembrance as a feature of the time to which it belongs. The anecdote of the Iron Mask will not now, as Voltaire foretold, be the astonishment of posterity, but it may still contribute to instruct them, although its hero has descended from the rank of princes, patriarchs and captains to that of an ordinary Italian adventurer, whose epitaph may be written in the words of Hamlet
• Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell,
I took thee for thy better !' The account of this strange story, drawn up by Mr. Agar Ellis,
is not a translation from M. Delort; though founded almost entirely on the documents discovered by that author. Mr. Ellis was of opinion that Delort had arranged his materials in a confused and illogical manner; and that the history deserved to be, not rendered, but re-composed. Accordingly the reader may now put into his English library, an edition of the Man in the Iron Mask, as complete in every respect as the French, and undoubtedly much better executed.
Art. III.- Oronzio di Bernardi's Vollständiger Lehrbegrifj der
Schwimmkunst aus dem Italienischen übersezt, und mit Anmerkungen begleitet von Friedrich Kries, Professor an dem
Gymnasium zu Gotha. 1824. . THE question concerning the weight of the human body as
compared with water, though one of no mean importance to mankind, and very easy to be determined by the test of experiment, is still permitted to remain obscured by doubt in the minds
We read in Borelli, De Motu Animalium-Homines ex sui natura inepti ad natandum, artificioso motu manuum et pedum id consequuntur.' A writer of a later period, Mr. John Robertson, F.R.S., who details a set of interesting experiments on the gravity of the human body, in a paper preserved in the 50th vol. of the Philosophical Transactions, seems to have been originally of the same opinion. He weighed, however, ten different individuals in water, comparing their weight with the quantity of water displaced by their bodies, and states the result as follows: Excepting two, every man was lighter than his equal bulk of fresh water, and much more so than his equal bulk of sea water; consequently could persons who fall into water have presence of mind enough to avoid the fright usual on such accidents, many . might be preserved from drowning.' In corroboration of this inference, Mr. Robertson narrates a circumstance connected with his own personal knowledge: a young gentleman of thir- ; teen, little acquainted with swimming, who fell overboard from a vessel in a stormy sea, having had presence of mind enough to turn immediately on his back, remained a full half-hour quietly floating on the surface of the water, until a boat was lowered from the vessel. He had used the precaution to retain his breath whenever a wave broke over him, until he again emerged, but confessed that, at last, a fainting began to creep over him, and his eyes to become dim,--and that he thought himself on the verge of sinking. *
Dr. We may add to the above an incident from a late publication, Mr. Maude's . Visit to Niagara in 1800. The author was on board a sloop on Lake Champlain when a boy
Dr. Franklin, in whose works a letter on the subject of swimming appears, while he considers the detached members of the body, and particularly the head, as of greater weight than their bulk of water, acknowledges our bodies in the aggregate to be of less specific gravity, by reason of the hollowness of the trunk. He thinks that a body immersed in water would sink up to the eyes; but that if the head were inclined back so as to be supported by the water, the mouth and nostrils would remain above, the body rising one inch at every inspiration, and sinking an inch at every expiration; and also that clothes give little additional weight in the water, although upon stepping out of it the case is quite otherwise. If a person could avoid struggling and plunging, therefore, he concludes that he might remain in the posture described long enough with safety. That the body is to a certain degree buoyant, he refers to the experience of every one who has ever attempted to reach the bottom of deep water; the effort required sufficiently proving that something resists Our sinking.
The only other work on the Art of Swimming, which we have seen, is one which has not as yet appeared in an English dress. This is the production of a Neapolitan Canon, Oronzio di Bernardi, discursive and long-winded to excess, but at the same time containing many useful hints. The Canon expounds his system with all the circumstance of a new and important discovery, his chief claim to which seems to rest upon successfully adapting the habitual movements of the body on land to its progress in water. The German translation of this work, the
named Katlin, who was on deck cutting bread and cheese with a knife, was knocked overboard by the captain gibing the boom. He missed catching hold of the canoe which was dragging astern, and an attempt of Mr. Maude's servant to untie or cut the rope which fastened it, that it might drift to his assistance, also failed. Katlin was known to be unable to swim, it was in the night and very dark, and it was with difficulty that the captain, who considered that there was no hope of saving his life, was at last prevailed upon to go in the canoe to attempt it. He succeeded in picking the boy up and brought him on board again in about a quarter of an hour. 'Katlin's relation,' proceeds Mr. Maude, almost exceeds probability. He had heard my exclamation to seize the canoe, which he was on the point of doing, when it gave a sudden swing and baffled him; but finding he could support his head above water, he dismissed all fear, expecting that the canoe would come every moment to his assistance. When he no longer heard our cheers from the sloop, hope began to fail him, and he was on the point of resigning himself to a watery grave, when he heard the captain's liferestoring voice. On telling Katlin, that we despaired of his safety, as we understood that he could not swim, he replied, Nor can I! I was never before out of my depth; but I am fond of bathing, and I have often seen lads what they call tread the water, and that's what I did.' The truth of this account was made manifest by the boy not only retaining his hat on his head, but its being perfectly dry; and what adds to the singularity of this event, the boy never quitted his grasp of the knife that he was eating his bread and cheese with. It now appeared that it was a most fortunate circumstance that my servant in his confusion could neither untie nor cut the tow-rope. Had he effected this purpose, the boy must have perished; for had there been light enough for him to have seen the canoe, he could not have swam to it.'
title of which is prefixed to the present Article, appeared two or three years ago. The translator corrects some mistakes in physics, which the Canonico's ardour for his favourite art had led him to discuss, notwithstanding very obvious indications of his unfitness for such a task. Any translator, other than a folioloving German, would have curtailed at least one half of the work, and thereby done both the author and the reader service. We could have well spared, for instance, the anxious and long winded investigation of the question, whether by nature mankind were intended to go on all fours, yea or nay. Bernardi shrewdly determines in favour of the vulgar theory, and thence takes occasion to infer the propriety of a similar position in the water: but were his theory unsupported by any more conclusive arguments, we doubt if the strength of this analogy would be sufficient to engage many converts.
Surrounded as we are by every convenience which the fertility of invention can provide for anticipating artificial wants, we soon experience the absolute deprivation of those faculties which we no longer find ourselves compelled to exercise. The simple and natural resources of man seem in this respect progressively to recede as civilization advances; for we find the savages of every climate, however rigorous, in the most perfect and enviable possession of a faculty, the want of which renders us a prey to a thousand distressing accidents. Yet this want is not to be attributed to any hopeless check which the energies of our nature have sustained from the iudulgences of civilized life: it is the effect of disuse alone, which would as readily deprive us of the powers of utterance and loco-motion on dry land, if the constancy of our necessities did not render these so familiar as to. seem more inherent qualities than voluntary acquirements. We may rely upon it, that the savage regards the equally familiar and successful exercise of his limbs in water, as no more the result of acquired skill, than the power of walking, or grasping with the hand.
We cannot look for systems of instruction among savages; but in the civilized states of ancient times, and especially among the Greeks and Romans, with wliose practices we are best acquainted, no branch in the education of youth was considered more important than swimming; so that it was usual to characterize the uneducated by saying neque literas, neque nalare didicit. ' That it should now have fallen into utter neglect, notwithstanding the ultra-solicitude of the present day on subjects of education; that we should abandon entirely to the casual whim of youth an acquirement as valuable to the individual as it is serviceable to the public, is an instance of reprehensible neglect not easily to be accounted for.
It is, our author truly says, the unfortunate propensity to look down, and in a manner to embrace the water, casting the arms about, that occasions the inexperienced to sink-every struggle forcing the body deeper and counteracting its natural tendency, if it were but kept tranquil and the lungs inflated, to rise to the surface. Violent struggling and throwing the limbs about would, in the same manner, infallibly deprive the body of the faculty of loco-motion, or of retaining its erect posture on land. Every swimmer knows that by holding himself perfectly still and upright, as if standing, with his head somewhat thrown back so as to rest on the surface, his face will remain entirely above the water, enabling him to enjoy full freedom of breathing. The only difficulty is to preserve the due balance of the body, and this is secured by extending the arms laterally under the surface of the water, with the legs separated the one to the front and the other behind, thus presenting resistance to any tendency of the body to incline to either side, forward, or backward. This posture may be preserved in perfect equilibrium for any length of time. In general, when the human body is immersed one eleventh of its weight will remain above the surface in fresh water and one tenth in salt water.
The great desideratum, therefore, for safety to the inexperienced, is a firm and sufficient conviction of the fact, that the body naturally floats. This conviction being gained, no more than a common share of presence of mind is farther required to ensure that that proportion of the body which will naturally remain above the surface shall comprehend the respiratory organs. The movements adapted to the advance of the body are to be learnt in the same manner as a child progressively learns to walk. Proficiency in this, as in every thing else, comes of practice; and by its efficacy we may in a short time stem the roughest tide with confidencechange our position in various ways—alternately use and recruit different classes of muscles-gradually prolong our endurance and extend our progress-urge our bodies to a considerable depthrise again to the surface, and there extend ourselves and repose with as much confidence as on shore.
It is natural to suppose that the less we alter our method of advancing in the water from what is habitual to us on shore, we shall find a continued exercise of it the more easy. According to this principle, the usual position of the swimmer-stretched Hat on his face, and the head held as much back on the shoulders as possible—is liable to objection. Savages are observed to urge their forward progress in an attitude nearly as upright as when they walk or run on land. Hence their motions are easy, the head is in perfect liberty, and the hands ready to be used when wanted.