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tions of a series of details, considered one after another,-the only method in which a reader can view them, but are stamped upon his mind and feelings at the moment, by the whole in combination. The process of reading a description, in short, is like that of taking a telescope to pieces, and looking at the distant object through each separate lens,—instead of making them all bear upon one another by appropriate adjustments in the tube.
There is absolutely no remedy for this but a journey to the place, and the superior enjoyment of the traveller on such occasions is the reward which he gathers for the privations of the road. Nevertheless, this laborious experiment will not always answer; for many persons, even when looking at these Falls, are as much disappointed as the man who expected to understand a book by putting on spectacles, though he had never learned to read.
The common-place maxim, therefore, so frequently rung in the ears of travellers, not to attempt what is called description, but to tell what their own genuine feelings are upon these occasions, must often fail to produce any effect, purely from the absence of that kindred sympathy, which no writer can or ought to suppose, extends in his own case, beyond the circle of friends to whom his habits of thinking are well known. Even if he could reckon upon a large audience who should understand him, the probability is he would not advance his object much. I have been led, by the superior interest and importance of Niagara, to apply these observations chiefly to that wonderful scene; but am of opinion that they might apply with equal force to most other circumstances which rise up in every man's path who goes from home. All he can hope to do, therefore, I fear, is to sketch with fidelity the outlines of what he sees, and leave his drawings to be filled up by the various dispositions, and the different degrees of knowledge of his readers; each one being left to colour the picture according to his own taste or fancy. By the time we reached Forsyth's Inn, close to the Falls on the English side, we had barely light enough left to see the
cataract from the balcony of our bedroom-distant from it, in a straight line not two hundred yards. I cannot bring myself to attempt any description of the pleasure which we experienced, while thus sitting at ease, and conscious of viewing, in sober reality, and at leisure, an object with which we had been familiar, in fancy at least, all our lives.
We passed the greater part of the 2d of July in roving about the banks and studying the Falls in as many different aspects as we could command. In the course of our rambles we met a gentleman who had resided for the last thirty-six years in this neighbourhood-happy mortal! He informed us the Great Horse-Shoe Fall had during that period gone back forty or fifty yards-that is to say, the edge of the rock over which the water pours, had broken down from time to time to that extent. This account was corroborated by that of another gentleman, who had been resident on the spot for forty years.
As these statements came from persons of good authority, I was led to examine the geological circumstances more particularly; for I could not conceive it possible, that the mere wearing of the water could perform such rapid changes upon hard limestone. The explanation is very simple, when the nature of the different strata is attended to. In the first place, they are laid exactly horizontal, the top stratum being a compact calcareous rock. In the next place, I observed, that in proportion as the examination is carried downwards, the strata are found to be less and less indurated, till, at the distance of a hundred feet from the topmost stratum, the rock turns to a sort of loose shale, which crumbles to pieces under the touch; and is rapidly worn away by the action of the blasts of wind, rising out of the pool into which this enormous cascade is projected. In process of time, as the lower strata are fairly eaten or worn away, the upper part of the rock must be left without a foundation. But, owing to the nature of the upper strata, they continue to project a long way over before they break down. There must come periods, however, every now and then, when the over
hanging rock, with such an immense load of water on its shoulders, will give way, and the crest or edge of the Fall will recede a certain distance. At the time of our visit, the top of the rock overhung the base, according to the rough estimate I made, between thirty-five and forty feet, thus forming a hollow space, or cave, between the falling water and the face of the rock.
While the above lines were actually in the printer's hands, my eye was accidentally caught by the following paragraph in a newspaper :
"Niagara Falls.-A letter from a gentleman at that place, dated Dec. 30, 1828, states, that on the Sunday evening preceding, about nine o'clock, two or three successive shocks or concussions were felt, the second of which was accompanied by an unusual rushing sound of the waters. The next morning it was discovered, that a large portion of the rock in the bed of the river, at the distance of about two-fifths from the Canada shore to the extreme angle of the Horse-Shoe, had broken off, and fallen into the abyss below. The whole aspect of the Falls is said to be much changed by this convulsion. A course of high winds for several days previous to its occurrence, producing an accumulation of water in the river, is supposed to have been the immediate cause. This gradual crumbling away of the rock over which the Niagara is precipitated, adds plausibility to the conjecture, that the Falls were once as low down as Lewistown, and have for centuries been travelling up towards their present position."
I visited on three different occasions the extraordinary cave formed between the cascade and the face of the overhanging cliff-first, on the 3d of July, out of mere curiosity; again on the 9th, to try some experiments with the barometer; and lastly on the 10th, in company with a friend, purely on account of the excitement which I found such a strange combination of circumstances produce. We reached a spot 153 feet from the outside, or entrance, by the assistance of a guide, who makes a handsome livelihood by this amphibious sort of pilotage. There was a tolerably good,
green sort of light within this singular cavern; but the wind blew us first in one direction, then in another, with such alarming violence, that I thought at first we should be fairly carried off our feet, and jerked into the roaring caldron beneath. This tempest, however, was not nearly so great an inconvenience as the unceasing deluges of water driven against us. Fortunately the direction of this gale of wind was always more or less upwards, from the pool below, right against the face of the cliffs; were it otherwise, I fancy it would be impossible to go behind the Falls, with any chance of coming out again. Even now there is a great appearance of hazard in the expedition, though experience shows that there is no real danger. Indeed the guide, to re-assure us, and to prove the difficulty of the descent, actually leaped downwards, to the distance of five or six yards, from the top of the bank of rubbish at the base of the cliff's along which the path is formed. The gusts of wind rising out of the basin or pool below, blew so violently against him, that he easily regained the walk.
This enormous cataract, like every other cascade, carries along with it a quantity of air, which it forces far below the surface of the water,-an experiment which any one may try on a small scale by pouring water into a tumbler from a height. The quantity of air thus carried down by so vast a river as Niagara, must be great, and the depth to which it is driven, in all probability, considerable. It may also be much condensed by the pressure; and it will rise with proportionate violence both on the outside of the cascade, and within the sheet or curtain which forms the cataract.
It had long been a subject of controversy, I was told, whether the air in the cave behind the Falls was condensed or rarefied; and it was amusing to listen to the conflicting arguments on the subject. All parties agreed that there was considerable difficulty in breathing; but while some ascribed this to a want of air, others asserted that it arose from the quantity being too great. The truth, however, obviously is,
that we have too much water; not too much air. For I may ask, with what comfort could any man breathe with half a dozen fire-engines playing full in his face? and positively the effect of the blast behind the Falls is just what that awkward ceremony might be supposed to produce. The direction of the wind is first one way and then another, crossing and thwarting, in a very confused style, and flinging the water sometimes up, sometimes down, and often whirling it round and round like smoke, in curls or spirals, up to the very top of the cave, a hundred feet above our heads, to the very edge of the precipice, over which we could distinctly see the river projected forwards, and just beginning to curve downwards. By the way, I took notice that, exactly in proportion to the apparent thickness of the mass of water, so it continued united after passing the brink. But I do not think, at any part of Niagara, the sheet of falling water remains unbroken for more than twenty feet, and that only at one place, well known by the name of the Green Waterthe most sublime and impressive part of the whole Fall. At every other, the cascade assumes a snowy whiteness very shortly after it begins to descend. This appearance is aided, no doubt, by the blast of wind which rises from the pool on the outside of the sheet; for I observed that the external surface of the cataract was roughened, or turned up in a series of frothy ripples, caused either by its friction against the air through which it was passing, or more probably by the blast rising upwards from the pool.
I remarked another singular phenomenon, which I have not happened to hear mentioned before, but which is evidently connected with this branch of the subject. A number of small sharp-pointed cones of water are projected upwards from the pool on the outside of the Fall, sometimes to the height of a hundred and twenty feet. They resemble in form some cornets of which I have seen drawings. Their point, or apex, which is always turned upwards, is quite sharp, and not larger, I should say, than a man's fingers and thumb