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elephants, his camels, his horses, his dogs,
his pigeons, his falcons, his wild asses, his
apes, his aviary full of birds, and all the rest
of his curiosities. Then he exhibited his
guns and pistolsby Purdy, Egg, and other
celebrated makershis swords, and his
daggers, of every country and age, and when he
had observed that he was very happy, under
the influence of some stimulant recently
imbibed, I took an opportunity of discoursing
on the vanity of human wishes, and
especially with reference to his Highness's
grievance. I translated many sentiments of
Juvenal and Horace into Hindoostanee; but,
I regret to say, they had no effect on Nena


I WOULD venture to define Man, in eighteen
hundred and fifty-seven, as the animal who
turns everything in creation to his own advantage.

To instance one thing by which he has so
profited, let us confine ourselves to the article
Light. None of the elements by which we are
surrounded appears to the uninstructed eye
so simple as light. It is less material than
air; it is infinitely less gross and mechanical
than water, which lends itself to human purposes
under the energetic and substantial
forms of vapour and ice. Apparently, light
comes and goes at regulated intervals; but
really, it issues in an uninterrupted stream
from the sun and from Sirius, as well as from
the faint fixed stars that are with difficulty
visible in the abyss of space. What, then, is
that unceasing influence, Light,—"Ethereal,
first of things, quintessence pure?" We
don't exactly know, nor is it necessary for
our welfare that we should. We don't
absolutely want to understand the nature of
light (though it would be pleasant, certainly,
to understand it), any more than we require
an exact cognisance of the electric fluid,—if
fluid there be. Electricity gives us a pleasing
titillation, or a smart shock, or strikes us
dead; it masks our ignoble spoons and forks
with a crust of silver; it generates rotatory
motion, by which we can work machinery;
it brings us instantaneous tidings of weal or
woe; it turns blackest midnight into bright
noon day; it will keep the clocks of a whole
community going in unison; all according to
fixed laws, which we can register and calculate
to a nicety. We cannot nearly guess
what it may do for us yet, without our knowing
what electricity is. The same is true of

It would be easy to excite a discussion
about the nature of light, which would fill
the columns of this journal for the next three
months. Huyghens and several other
philosophers suggested that, as sound is known to
be the effect of vibrations or spherical waves
in the air (resembling in some degree the
waves that are formed when a stone  is
thrown into a still pond of water), which
travel at a certain rate; so, light is nothing
more than the vibrations or undulations in a
thin and elastic ether, which ether must
pervade all known space; that, as the impression
of the ear-waves on the ear produces
the sense of hearing; so, the impression of
the ether-undulations on the eye, produces
the sense of sight. Hence, this hypothesis
as to the nature of light is called the
Undulatory Theory. But Newton and his
immediate followers, held that light consists of
minute particles or corpuscles, shot out
by luminous bodies with an immense
velocity, which (whether undulations or
material atoms) has been proved to be at
the rate of a hundred and ninety-two
miles in a second. Newton's hypothesis,
therefore, is called the Corpuscular Theory.
His supporters urge that there is no proof of
the existence of the all-pervading ether; and
that if light, like sound, were the pulsations
of waves, it would travel round corners and
through curved tubes; but that, instead, it
follows the same rectilinear course as would
be taken by a cannon-ball uninfluenced by
the earth's attraction.

What is most strange is, that several of the
phenomena of light may be equally explained
on either theory; that neither theory is
without its difficulties; and that even by
the help of the modern favourite, the
undulatory scheme, many optical facts are to be
accounted for, only by mere assumption as
to the manner and direction in which the
ethereal particles vibrate. The visible
phenomena are constantly reproduced; but
the essential nature of light is probably
still unknown. Meanwhile, the undulatory
theory may with advantage be provisionally
admitted, if only as a sort of artificial
memory by which the details of optical facts
may be classed and impressed upon the
student's mind.

Happily, as with electricity, numerous
physical properties of light have been
discovered in spite of our uncertainty as to its
nature. That more hidden powers remain to
be divulged, we can hardly for a moment
doubt. In the so-believed simple ray of
light, there have been traced the co-existence
of a variety of component rays; and
self-serving man has turned them to his own
advantage. A ray, instead of being one
uniform beam, is now known as a complicated
bundle, made up of a collection of magic
wands of very discrepant efficiency. Newton
first employed the prism to split the solar
beam into seven rays, coloured, three with
the primary colours, red, yellow, and blue,
and four with their compounds, orange,
green, indigo, and violet,—although the rainbow
had displayed the experiment long
before him. Botanists, chemists, and photographers,
have derived special service from
the generative ray, the heat ray, and the