5 SEPTEMBER 1840, Page 18


AT another time, these volumes might pass with a note of simple announcement, among the numerous products of the literary work- shop ; but their seasonable appearance, and the vigorous character that the writer's graphic manner of treatment has given to subjects rendered familiar, if not stale, by frequent publication, may pro- cure them a place in our library, among the topographies for tourists.

The two volumes are separate and distinct portions of an account of the smaller islands adjacent to Great Britain and subject to its sway ; which Mr. Muntes knowledge, tact, and industry, qualify him to complete with every prospect of success. Tbe beauty of the scenery and climate of the Isle of Wight, now in tempting proximity to the Metropolis, and of Guernsey, Jersey, and the lesser Channel Islands, which though not so easy of access present more novel and hardly less attractive features, induced the author to describe their characteristics for the benefit of holyday- seekers of change of air and scene : and it is no small merit of these descriptions that they present the marked characteristics of the places distinctly. Moreover, Mr. MunrE as a naturalist, con- versant with geology, and given to seek for the causes of phw- nomena and the origin of peculiar customs, is enabled to contribute some original and curious infiomation, as well as to give animation to the picture of external nature.

The account of the Isle of Wight commences with a general sur- vey of the face of the country, fbIlowed by an examination of its geological features, and a closer inspection of some particular points, in separate chapters. To these are added a sca.trip round the island, a sketch of its history and topography, and some men- tion of its seas and coasts and of their products, which forms a completer view of the Isle of Wight, and more fUll of' matter and way, than any we have met with ; whilst it is also suggestive to the observation of nature anti the investigation of her laws.

The description of the Channel Islands has a similar division ; the portions relating to their history and laws being the most in. teresting. The account of the peculiar constitution and govern. ment of the islands does not, however, enter sufficiently into the workings of the system ; and the author is content with indicating defects and abuses that imply a state of things quite inconsistent with the spirit of the free and popular constitution which is the boast and should be the glory of these independent states. From the sketch of the position and geologic structure of the Channel Islands we will quote a curious fact, little known beyond scientific observers, illustrating


Apart from the local advantages to such people as those of the islanders

who use it as fuel and as mauure—of this stranded sea-weed, there is a prin- ciple, connected with the fact of its coming ashore, which it is necessary to understand before one can examine the sea with due knowledge of the economy of that extraordinary element. It is a fact, palpable to any one's observation, that all the coasts of the land, composed of mineral substances, or of dead shells, or other animal productions, or vegetable ones in which life is extinct, are habi- tually wetted by the ocean waters, to the full extent that these waters act upon them. It is also a fact, well known to those acquainted with the economy of nature, but not so palpable to common observations in those who do not attend to the principles of things, that no living production of the sea, or any other water, is wetted by that water while it remains in the Evils.. state. This is known to be the case in all waters, however soft and limpid they may be, or however mixed with saline and other active substances; and it is also known that the more such substances exist in the composition of any water, whether of the sea or of any other collection, the more completely are the living inha- bitants of that water, animal or vegetable, protected against its action upon the surface of their bodies. The substance which nature employs for this purpose is a mucous or slimy matter, of some description or other, in which the surface of the living being is habitually bathed, and by which it is completely protected from that macerating and decomposing influence, which the water, whether salt or fresh, would otherwise exert upon it, and in so far operate its destruction; in the same manner as water very speedily decomposes the greater number of organized substances after they are dead. The most remarkable and important relation between the waters of the sea and the dead and living in'iabitants of that element, is not, however, the cir- cumstance of the living productions and inhabitants elaboratiog a mucous or slimy production, by which the wetting is prevented, and which applies not only to aquatic plants and animals covered with soft skins, but even to the most compact of the porcelain shells, which, when living, are invested with a kind of membrane' often of extreme tenuity, which possesses the same quality. The curious part of the matter is, the difference of their relation in the sea to a substance which can be wetted by its waters, and to one which cannot be so wetted. The wettable substance finds its way to the wettable shore by an ob- scure but by a very certain and constant kind of attraction ; and the sub- stance which the water of the sea cannot wet has no such tendency to come on shore, but remains to perform its functions in the water. No matter whether it is marine plant, marine animal of any kind whatsoever, or aquatic bird which frequents the waters without habitually living in their volume : for if the plant or the animal is fitted by nature for living in the sea, there is no sur- face-action of the ,ea upon it as long as it is ia the living state; and it conse-

quently has no tmilency whatever toward the shore. But when either plant or animal dies, and ceases to perform its functions, including the production of

the water-repelling mucus amour, the rest, it is immediately subjected to the

economy of the waters, just as if were a dead thing ; and then the action of the sea casts it on the shore, as having no longer connexion with the energy and economy of living nature there. This is the cause of the vast accumula- tions of shells with which we meet on various shores, and on some of the shores of the Channel Islands among the rest ; and it is also the reason why that sea-weed, which is so valuable to the Channel Islanders, comes ashore in considerable quantities, after those violent disturbances of the ocean waters which have torn it from its natural situation as a living vegetable, and trans- ferred it over to those dead products which the sea invariably casts upon the strand, as being no longer useful in its very varied economy. If the people of the Channel Islands were fully aware of this peculiar pro- perty of dead sea-weed, it might save them no smell portion of their la-

bour at those times of the year when the time arrives to cat and carry this

weed as a very necessary article of their provision, both domestic and agricul- tural. If they were simply to cut it down—that is, to sever it from the tenta-

cula or roots by which it adheres to the rocks without deriving any nourish- ment from them—then it would not go out to sea, but would be collected in the bays and creeks to probably the same extent as now, and with a great re- duction of labour to those to whom it is valuable as an article of domestic economy.

The plates that illustrate these volumes are so unequally en- graved, that the artists ought not to be held responsible for the imperfections of many ; especially as the few that are better exe- cuted are truthful and pleasing.