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anticipated. Thus a work which is admirable in design, and accordant with the most ancient tradition of the former grandeur of the country, has proved little more than a ridiculous failure; and that not so much in consequence of the want of professional skill, as owing to the barbarism of the Government of Egypt.
That enormous wealth might be drawn from the delta by well-executed works of irrigation, there is not a shadow of a doubt. Sugar, cotton, rice and indigo, for which the climate of Egypt is suited, are summer crops, and cannot be raised there without irrigation. The summer discharge of the Nile is as low as 40,000,000 cubic yards of water per diem. There are three and a half millions of acres of cultivable land in Lower Egypt, out of which only about one-fourteenth part is irrigated by the rude chain pumps, worked by oxen, which are known by the name of Sakiehs. Twenty-six cubic yards of water per acre per diem are required for the irrigation of land producing summer crops, and rice requires nearly three times that supply. The former quantity is about equal to a daily rainfall of onefifth of an inch. The irrigation of a million of acres would consume more than half the volume of the Nile at its lowest, and it may be very questionable how far it would be practically safe to abstract so large a quantity of water from the channel during the dry season immediately preceding the inundation.
The volume of the river must also place a limit to such an effort to restore the fertility of the district above the cataracts, as may otherwise be considered to be within the reach of engineering science. It is probable that the effect of earthquakes in destroying the natural barriers of the cataracts, has tended to the desolation of Nubia. Measurements on the face of the rock at Semneh, above the second cataract, prove the rupture of a great barrier across the river lower down at some period later than the twentieth century B.C. Sir Gardner Wilkinson is of opinion that this barrier existed at Silsilis. From this point to the delta the Nile continually diminishes in volume by evaporation. The supply needed for irrigation above this spot might have been far more readily spared 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, when the delta had attained only about a third part of its actual area before Memphis, than would now be the case.
But in regarding the possible advantages to be drawn from the barrage of the stream, attention should not be exclusively confined to the delta. The effect of welldesigned works in the vicinity of the cataracts is a subject well worth the attention of the Government of Egypt.
Whatever view be taken of the best method of utilising the annual bounty of the Nile, the fact of the great amount of deposit which it annually brings down is one that can no longer be matter of doubt. It is possible that the foregoing estimate may require some correction. It is, however, based on positive data; and the accordance between the cubic quantities estimated by Mr. Fowler, and the successive boundaries of the delta indicated by Herodotus, by Strabo, and by Admiral Spratt, is so close as to show that there cannot be any very serious error in either statement. That the seaward extension of the delta has of late years been but small, in consequence of the protrusion of the coast being diminished by the eastward movement of the deposit caused by the prevailing currents, after the shelter of Aboukir Point was lost, is probable enough. The form of the cordons joining the lagoons is conclusive as to the character of this littoral movement. The surveys of Captain Nares and Captain Wharton tell us of its effect on the neighbourhood of Port Said.
It is high time that it should be generally known that the results of the observations of these able hydrographers have been reduced to definite form, and that the question of the encroachment of the shore at Port Said has been removed from the category of subjects on which it is possible for educated men to hold widely divergent opinions.
We have no space to refer to the observations of Admiral Spratt on the growth of the delta of the Danube ; a matter of no small European interest. We must be content if we have been able to call the attention of the engineer, the hydrographer, and the geographer to the activity and importance of the changes which river action is at this moment effecting; and to the need of collecting full and adequate observations on the various elements requisite for the solution of the general problem. The areas of water-shed basins, the amount of rainfall, the inclination of the zone of erosion, the measurement of the volume of the river at its mouth, the quantity of solid matters held in solution or suspension in its waters throughout the year, the growth of deltas and cordons as ascertained by actual survey—such are the points which it is needful to study, and we hope that every fresh occasion may be seized to add exact information to our knowledge of them.
Art. V.-The Paston Letters. A New Edition. Edited by
. JAMES GAIRDNER, of the Public Record Office. 3 vols. London: 1872–75. A , BOUT four years ago we briefly noticed the first volume of
this new edition of the Paston Letters,' for which the public is indebted to the enterprise of Mr. Arber and the critical skill of Mr. Gairdner. At that time, the history of the originals of this most interesting correspondence was, to uso Mr. Gairdner's words, “mysterious.' Of five bulky volumes, those of only one, the fifth, were known to exist, while the letters from which the four first had been printed by Sir John Fenn in 1788 and 1789 were entirely lost. The original letters of volumes one and two had been presented by Fenn to George III., to whom the work had been dedicated as the
avowed patron of antiquarian knowledge;' and, as an acknowledgment of the value of the gift, the editor was summoned to court and received the honour of knighthood. It was on May 23, 1787, that Fenn was knighted, and on the same day the original letters, bound in three volumes, were presented to the king. This, one would have thought, would have been the surest way to preserve them, short of depositing them in the British Museum. They might have been looked for in the library of the king, now among the National Collections in Bloomsbury, or in one of the royal palaces. Strange to say, those volumes have never been found. They have hardly been heard of since that May 23, 1787, now nearly ninety years ago; though there is a tradition that they were last seen in the hands of old Queen Charlotte, who, it is supposed, must have "lent them to one of her ladies in attendance.'
If so, we may carry on the supposition, and suppose that the lady-inwaiting lent them to a lord-in-waiting, who in turn lent them to some one else. If they have escaped the inevitable butterman, they may yet turn up in some private collection, and it has been suggested that it would be a bright feather in the cap of the Historical Manuscripts Commission if they could ferret out and bring to light documents so valuable for English History. But this was not the whole of the mystery' connected with the originals of the Paston Letters. For a long time those of the three remaining volumes which had not been presented to the king were equally undiscoverable. It seemed 80 strange that the actual documents contained in five volumes should have vanished from the face of the earth, that unbelieving critics arose, who declared that there never were any
original Paston Letters at all; and an 'ingenious littérateur,' as Mr. Gairdner calls him, made the disappearance of all the MSS. a ground to question the authenticity of the published letters.
In this dreadful state of things a discovery was fortunately made, but not till the year 1865; on which Mr. Gairdner makes the just reflection that it is certainly a misfortune for • historical literature that the owners of ancient documents • commonly take so little pains to ascertain what it is they • have got.' It was ascertained in that year that though Mr. Sergeant Frere, when he edited the fifth volume, after Fenn's death, had declared that the originals of that volume were not to be found, they had actually been in his house at Dungate, in Cambridgeshire, all the while; and there they lay hidden till Mr. Philip Frere, his son, brought them to light in the year named. Under these circumstances, it is a comfort to think that those originals were shortly afterwards secured for the British Museum. When such doubt had been thrown on the authenticity of the letters, the discovery even of the originals of the fifth volume was very welcome; and Mr. Gairdner shortly afterwards undertcok the publication of all the volumes, adding to them such additional documents connected with the Paston family as had come to light since the first publication. The first volume of the new edition appeared in 1872, and the second in 1874, up to which time no portion of the originals of the third and fourth of Fenn's volumes had turned up, except two in the third volume, one of which was found in the British Museum and the other at Holland House; showing, as was supposed, that the originals of those volumes had never been bound up by Fenn, and had been scattered and perhaps destroyed after his death. But before Mr. Gairdner bad published his third volume, another discovery had been made, proving that the letters contained in the third and fourth volumes had not been dispersed, but were quietly lying hid in the eastern counties. And where does the reader suppose that they were found? Why, in another house of the Freres at Roydon, where the head of the family had long been the “un• conscious possessor' not only of all the originals of the old third and fourth volumes, except the two letters we have already named and another, but of a large number of additional letters belonging to the Paston family!
From what has been said it will easily be perceived under what difficulties Mr. Gairdner's edition has been produced ; but the promise made when it was undertaken, that it would contain more than four hundred additional letters derived from
Magdalen College at Oxford and elsewhere, has been amply redeemed, for before the discovery at Roydon the number of new letters already exceeded four hundred. For those who are never satisfied except with a complete edition, it may be mortifying to think that the printing of Mr. Gairdner's third volume had proceeded so far that he was only able to treat the Roydon find in an appendix, and in most cases to summarise the contents of the letters. Those, however, of our readers who are reasonable enough to see that there is no such thing as completeness on earth, who may think that enough is as good as a feast, and that it is possible, to have more than enough of a series of medieval letters, will no doubt be satisfied when we tell them that they will have to read through more than a thousand letters in very crabbed English before they get to the end of this edition of the Paston Letters.' As we are glad to think that all men are not gluttons, and fewer still literary gluttons, the ordinary reader will be content with the feast which Mr. Gairdner has provided for him, and not sigh for further correspondence when he has come to the end of his meal. As for Mr. Gairdner himself, he must console himself for this small disappointment by the expectation that a new edition of the letters may in due time be called for. On one thing, however, we must congratulate him. While the discovery of these originals has proved Fenn's general accuracy and faithfulness, it was not to be expected that he should not occasionally have fallen into mistakes and misreadings. It is very much to Mr. Gairdner's credit that in his criticism and correction of such errors he has almost invariably been borne out by the originals, and thus their tardy discovery has proved his critical insight, which in some cases almost amounts to intuition. Let us add that these volumes leave nothing to be desired by the way of introduction, chronology, and index. The · Paston Letters are not thrown on the world as inarticulate babes; for Mr. Gairdner is ever at hand to speak for them, and to explain their utterances, which to the general reader are often very incoherent.
And now, who were the Pastons that their correspondence is so valuable? They were a Norfolk family, who from small beginnings won their way in the fifteenth century to position and wealth. In the present time, even after East Anglia has been opened up by railways, Norfolk is to many an out-of-theway place. Before railways its inaccessibility was summed up in the exclamation of the fine lady when invited to stay in the county, `Ask me to Norfolk! You might as well ask me to the moon, and besides, it leads to nowhere.' Since