Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 7 (1883–84), 282–97.
Nature's Serial Story Ch. 2 [2/13]
E P Roe
Horticulture, Heat, Physics, Utility, Botany, Microscopy, Animal Husbandry, Ornithology, Health, Natural History, Periodicals, Hunting, Natural Imperialism, Meteorology
On Christmas morning, the Clifford family celebrate the survival through the freezing night of 'Mrs Clifford's pets—the flowers', and Webb explains why 'plants and roots don't freeze when water freezes' and 'how the water [that had been left in the flower-room; see HM1/7/1/1] draws the frost from the plants'. He proclaims that 'the principle of latent heat explains it all [...]. The water does not draw the frost from the plants, but before it can freeze it must give out one hundred and forty degrees of latent heat. The flower-room and root-cellar were therefore so much warmer during the night than if the water had not been there'. (283) Webb then insists that 'of all people in the world those who obtain their livelihood from the soil should seek to learn the wherefore of everything, for such knowledge often doubles the prospect of success', but he also admits that 'We do not have to go far—at least I do not—before coming to the limitations of knowledge. What is in the structure of a plant like the pansy, for instance, which makes it so much more hardy than others that seem stronger and more vigorous, even the microscope does not reveal. Nature has plenty of secrets that she has not yet told' (284). Later, during a conversation between several neighbours, the kindly Dr Marvin tells Amy Winfield how he became 'captivated by the science of ornithology', which, he insists, has a 'wholesome effect on health and character'. He suggests that she should 'learn to identify some of the birds that nest near the house, and follow their fortunes [...] keeping a little diary of your observations', and tells her, 'You will find these little birds histories, as they develop from day to day, more charming than a serial story'. (290)
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005-07
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