Obrázky na stránke

We notice, in a previous page, the prevailing, and rational, opinion, that the island is formed of one immense bed of rock. The granite of which this bed chiefly consists, breaks through the surface in many parts of the country, and is seen in some of the most aspiring mountains. Limestone is the prevailing substance near the surface, but other kinds of stone, together with marble of an estimable quality, are found in great plenty, and in various districts. Amongst the most curious, although not the most useful, productions of this kind, must be noticed basaltes, which, on the northern coast of this island, stands displayed in some of the most awful forms that nature presents in works at once intricate and stupendous. The basaltic district occupies a line of coast reaching from the Estuary of Carrickfergus, on the northeast, to Lough Foyle, on the north ; and extends inland to the southern shores of Lough Neagh. Some particulars respecting this august and interesting tract are presented in our description of the county of Antrim.

The precious metals have been found in small quantities, but with no indications of plentiful existence. Gold has been discovered in Wicklow, but not in continued, or regular, veins. A silver mine in the county of Kildare was worked about the middle of the last century, but was abandoned without individual or national profit. The ore of this metal is found, in small quantities, in several parts, but universally mixed with lead.

The more useful mineral substances are greatly abundant, and encourage the hope of much future advantage. Copper has been found, and worked, in several parts of the country; but hitherto not with any important benefit. Veins of lead are worked, with considerable success, in the counties of Donegal and Wicklow ; and are found in various districts. Iron, which, from the valuable assistance it affords to human labour and the operations of the arts, would be entitled to primary consideration in a less cultivated state of society, is bountifully spread throughout nearly every part of the island. When treating on manufactures, we have occasion to mention the want of fuel, as a great impediment to the prosecution of iron-works in this country.

[ocr errors]

The amethysts, the crystals, and calcareous petrifactions for which several counties are celebrated, are noticed in our topographical description of those districts; as are, likewise, some of the principal mineral springs with which Ireland abounds.

CLIMATE.—The climate of Ireland may be described, in general terms, as being greatly variable, but not subject to extremes, either of heat or cold. Such careful and repeated observations as are necessary to convey scientific information, have not been made, in sufficiently numerous parts of this country; and intelligence of a general nature is, therefore, all that can be afforded.

The prevailing mildness of the climate is evinced by the rich verdure retained, throughout the whole of the year, by the best pastures, except in the most northern part of the island. An additional proof is found in the vigorous growth of the arbutus and myrtle, often on exposed and elevated situations. The degree of cold is, indeed, seldom so intense as to produce lasting congelation; and snow rarely falls, except in the mountainous districts. Hurricanes are frequent; but storms, attended with thunder and lightning, are of unusual occurrence. Most of the storms by wbich Ireland is visited come from some point of the south or west ; and it is observable that the winds which most frequently prevail, in all seasons of the year, blow from the westward. The summers are rarely attended with oppressive heat ; but very dry summers are still more uncommon. The seasons are later here than in England. Spring is tardy in its approach, and the fall of the leaf seldom commences before November.

The moistness of the Irish climate, as compared with that of Britain, is the characteristic by which it is most strongly marked. In consequence of its situation between England and the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland necessarily arrests in its progress the vast body of vapour collected from that wide expanse of waters; which, attracted and broken by the mountains, descends in copious showers. It would appear, however, that the humidity of the climate, as far as it is connected with the fall of rain, is caused rather by the frequency of the showers, than by the quantity of water which descends. It is stated, in the Statistical Survey of Londonderry,

that the medium quantity of rain which falls in Ireland at large, is from twenty-four to twenty-eight inches ; a quantity less than the medium fall of rain in most parts of England. To the powers of aerial evaporation, rather than to the quantity of rain which falls, we must look for the cause of moisture in climate.

The climate of Ireland, although humid and unstable, is highly conducive to health and longevity, whilst its mildness is favourable to the successful cultivation of the soil. Unable to


satisfactory intelligence respecting those variations of temperature which will occur, from many obvious causes, even in the same country, we present, on the authority of Mr. Hamilton, the result of an observation made in the neighbourhood of the metropolis. According to the remarks of that gentleman, as inserted in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, “the general temperature, in the vicinity of the capital, is somewhat lower than the 50th degree of Fahrenheit's thermometer, and a mean of the hottest or coldest months of the year rarely varies more than ten degrees from this standard heat ; winter, therefore, is usually accompanied by a temperature of 40 degrees ; spring and autumn of 50, and summer of 60; and the general heat of any single month of these seasons, seldom varies much from the corresponding temperature of the particular season to which it belongs." It

may be noticed, in this place, as a curious feature in the natural history of the country, that Ireland is free from all venomous creatures. No kind of serpent is found here, nor are there any moles or toads. Frogs are seen in abundance, but it is said that the first were imported from England, about one century back.

It has not been decided by naturalists whether these exemptions are to be attributed to soil or to climate ; but it appears to have been satisfactorily proved that viperous animals will not exist in this island. Dr. Beaufort affirms that snakes and vipers have been experimentally imported, but have not propagated.* It will

* Mem. of a Map of Ireland, p. 13. The same author observes that wolves were extirpated so lately as the time of Oliver Cromwell. A

be remembered that Crete and the Isle of France are said to possess the same freedom from venomous creatures, and, indeed, Britain produces but one kind, namely the viper, which is far from being a prolific species.

Several birds common in England are unknown in Ireland. Amongst these, to the regret of the inhabitants, is the nightingale, justly termed “ the sweetest of the feathered tribe.


GOVERNMENT, &c. Civil, or POLITICAL, Division of IRELAND.-It would much exceed our limits to present a lengthened statement of the numerous fluctuations of political division which have occurred in Ireland at different periods, caused either by the alternate strength and weakness of the governing powers, or the progressive advance of national improvement. It may, however, be necessary to observe that the existing civil division of the country has not experienced any alteration since the time of Charles I.

This island is politically divided into four Provinces, named LEINSTER; MUNSTER; CONNAUGHT; and ULSTER; which are again separated into thirty-two counties. The counties are subdivided into 252 baronies, and the baronies into 2436 parishes.

The Province of Leinster comprises the twelve eastern counties, thus denominated : Carlow.



Queen's County.

King's County. Wexford.


writer in the Gentleman's Magazine (vol. Ixx. p. 127) mentions the circumstance of a gentleman, in the county of Wexford, experimentally placing some vipers on his estate in that county, which shortly perished.

* The nightingale visits England in the beginning of April, and leaves the country in August, but is far from spreading over the whole of the island. It is not found in North Wales, nor in any of the English counties

In the Province of Munster are the following six southern
counties :



The Province of Connaught comprises the five western coun-
ties, termed :


The Province of Ulster comprehends the nine northern coun-
ties, denominated :





[ocr errors]

ECCLESIASTICAL Division, and Church EstaBLISHMENT OF IRELAND.-In common with most other European countries, Ireland was divided into very numerous bishoprics in the early ages of Christianity. No satisfactory documents have been adduced for ascertaining the number of Irish prelates, in the early centuries ; but, in the opinion of a modern'writer (Dr. Ledwich), there were

« above three hundred." It has been found impracticable to narrate the progressive steps by which these numerous bishoprics coalesced, and assumed their present forms of ecclesiastical division. According to the papal tax-rolls, the number of Irish sees which paid annates, or first-fruits, to Rome, about the year 1229, was thirty-eight; but, at a later period, the number is stated, in the Roman provincial, to be fifty-seven.

north of that district, except Yorkshire. We believe, likewise, that it does not migrate so far west as Devonshire and Cornwall. It is, also, a stranger to Scotland.

« PredošláPokračovať »