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pregnant woman fell down from heaven, and that the tortoise took her upon its back, because every place was covered with water; and, that the woman, sitting upon the tortoise, paddled with her hands in the water, and raked up the earth, whence it finally happened that the earth became higher than the water.
But I forbear to quote a number more of these ancient and outlandish philosophers, whose deplorable ignorance, in spite of all their erudition, compelled them to write in languages which but few of my readers can understand; and I shall proceed briefly to notice a few more intelligible and fashionable theories of their modern suc
And first, I shall mention the great Buffon, who conjectures that this globe was originally a globe of liquid fire, scintillated from the body of the sun, by the percussion of a comet, as a spark is generated by the collision of flint and steel. That at first it was surrounded by gross vapours, which, cooling and condensing in process of time, constituted, according to their densities, earth, water, and air; which gradually arranged themselves, according to their respective gravities, round the burning or vitrified mass that formed their centre.
Hutton, on the contrary, supposes that the waters at first were universally paramount; and he terrifies himself with the idea, that the earth must be eventually washed away by the force of rains, rivers, and mountain torrents, until it is confounded with the ocean, or, in other words,
absolutely dissolves into itself.- Sublime idea! far surpassing that of the tender-hearted damsel of antiquity, who wept herself into a fountain; or the good dame of Narbonne in France, who, for a volubility of tongue unusual in her sex, was doomed to peel five hundred thousand and thirty-nine ropes of onions, and actually ran out at her eyes before half the hideous task was accomplished.
Whiston, the same ingenious philosopher who rivalled Ditton in his researches after the longitụde (for which the mischief-loving Swift discharged on their heads a most savoury stanza), has distinguished himself by a very admirable theory respecting the earth. He conjectures that it was originally a chaotic comet, which being selected for the abode of man, was removed from its eccentric orbit, and whirled round the sun in its present regular motion; by which change of direction, order succeeded to confusion in the arrangement of its component parts. The philosopher adds, that the deluge was produced by an uncourteous salute from the watery tail of another comet; doubtless through sheer envy of its improved condition; thus furnishing a melancholy proof that jealousy may prevail, even among the heavenly bodies, and discord interrupt that celestial harmony of the spheres, so melodiously sung by the poets.
But I pass over a variety of excellent theories, among which are those of Burnet, and Woodward, and Whitehurst; regretting, extremely that my t.me will not suffer me to give them the notice
they deserve and shall conclude with that of the renowned Dr. Darwin. This learned Theban, who is as much distinguished for rhyme as reason, and for good-natured credulity as serious research; and who has recommended himself wonderfully to the good graces of the ladies, by letting them into all the gallantries, amours, debaucheries, and other topics of scandal of the court of Flora, has fallen upon a theory worthy of his combustible imagination. According to his opinion, the huge mass of chaos took à sudden occasion to explode, like a barrel of gunpowder, and, in that act, exploded the sun-which, in its flight, by a similar convulsion exploded the earth - which in like guise exploded the moon—and thus, by a concatenation of explosions, the whole solar system was produced, and set most systematically in motion,
By the great variety of theories here alluded to, every one of which, if thoroughly examined, will be found surprisingly consistent in all its parts, my unlearned readers will perhaps be led to conclude, that the creation of a world is not so difficult a task as they at first imagined. I have shown at least a score of ingenious methods in which a world could be constructed; and, I have no doubt, that had any of the philosophers above quoted the use of a good manageable comet, and the philosophical warehouse, chaos, at his command, he would engage to manufacture a planet, as good, or, if you would take his word for it, better than this we inhabit.
And here I cannot help noticing the kindness of providence, in creating comets for the great relief of bewildered philosophers. By their assistance more sudden evolutions and transitions are effected in the system of nature, than are wrought in a pantomimic exhibition, by the wonder-work. ing sword of harlequin. Should one of our modern sages, in his theoretical flights among the stars, ever find himself lost in the clouds, and in danger of tumbling into the abyss of nonsense and absurdity, he has but to seize a comet by the beard, mount astride on its tail, and away he gallops in triumph, like an enchanter on his hippogriff, or a Connecticut witch on her broomstick, “to sweep the cobwebs out of the sky."
It is an old and vulgar saying, about a “beggar on horseback," which I would not for the world have applied to these reverend philosophers: but I must confess, that some of them, when they are mounted on one of those fiery steeds, are as wild in their curvettings as was Phaeton, of yore, when he aspired to manage the chariot of Phoebus. One drives his comet at full speed against the sun, and knocks the world out of him with the mighty concussion; another, more moderate, makes his comet a kind of beast of burden, carrying the sun a regular supply of food and faggots; a third, of more combustible disposition, threatens to throw his comet, like a bombshell, into the world, and blow it up like a powder magazine: while a fourth, with no great delicacy to this planet and its inhabitants, insinuates that some day or other, his comet-my modest pen blushes while I write itshall bsolutely turn tail upon the world and