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Time is one of those things which cannot be defined. We only know or become sensible of it through certain processes of nature which require it for their being carried on and perfected, and towards which it may therefore be said to bear a relation. We only appreciate it as a fact in the universal frame of things, when we are enabled by these means to measure it. Thus, the rotation of the earth on its axis, the process by which we obtain the alternation of day and night, takes a certain space of time. This, multiplied by 366, gives the time required for the revolution of the earth around the sun, the process by which we enjoy the alternations of the seasons. The life of a well-constituted man will, under fair conditions, last during about seventy such spaces of time or years; very rarely to a hundred. The cluster of individuals termed a nation, or constituting a state, will pass through certain changes, inferring moral, social, and political improvement, in the course of still larger spaces of time; say several centuries: also certain processes of decay, requiring, perhaps, equal spaces of time. With such matters it is the province of history to deal; and actually from this source we learn pretty clearly what has been going on upon the surface of the earth during about four thousand years. We have also reason, however, to conclude, that our planet has existed for a prodigiously longer space of time than that.

The sculptures of Egypt are held by scholars to imply that there was a political fabric of the monarchical kind in that country thirty-four centuries before the commencement of our pre-sent era. Rude weapons and implements of stone, flint, and bone, found interred in countries now occupied by civilized people, point, in like manner, to the existence of savage nations in those regions at a time long before the commencement of history. Geology, or the examination of the crust of the earth, still further prolongs our backward view of time. It shows that the earth has passed through a succession of physical changes, extending over a great series of ages: that during the same time vegetable and animal life underwent great changes: changes of one set of species for others: an advancement from invertebrate to vertebrate animals, from fishes to reptiles, from reptiles to birds and mammifers; of these man coming in the last. Thus it has happened that we could now give a biography of our little world, in which the four thousand years of written history would be multiplied many times over: and yet this vastly extended period must, after all, be regarded. as but a point in that stretch of duration which we call time. All beyond, where related facts fail us above all, a beginning or an end to time are inconceivable: so entirely dependent is our idea of it upon measurement, or so purely, rather, may it be said to consist of measurement.

What we are more immediately concerned with at present is the YEAR, the space of time required for a revolution of the earth around the sun, being about one-seventieth of the ordinary duration of a healthy human life. It is a period very interesting to us in a natural point of view, because within it are included all seasonal changes, and of it nearly everything else in our experience of the appearances of the earth and sky is merely a repetition. Standing in this relation to us, the year has very reasonably become the unit of our ordinary reckonings of time when any larger space is concerned; above all, in the statement of the progress and completion of human life. An old man is said to die full of years. His years have been few, is the affecting expression we use regarding one who has died in youth. The anniversary of an event makes an appeal to our feelings. We also speak of the history of a nation as its annals the transactions of its succession of years. There must . have been a sense of the value and importance of the year as a space of time from a very early period in the history 'of humanity, for even the simplest and rudest people would be sensible of ' the seasons' difference,' and of the cycle which the seasons formed, and would soon begin, by observations of the rising of the stars, to ascertain roughly the space of time which that cycle occupied.

Striking, however, as the year is, and must always have been, to the senses of mankind, we can readily see that its value and character were not so liable to be appreciated as were those of the minor space of time during which the earth performed its rotation on its own axis. That space, within which the simple fathers of our race saw light and darkness exchange possession of the earth which gave themselves a waking and a sleeping time, and periodicised many others of their personal needs, powers, and sensations, as well as a vast variety of the obvious processes of external nature must have impressed them as soon as reflection dawned in their minds: and the DAY, we may be very sure, there-fore, was amongst the first of human ideas.

While thus obvious and thus important, the Day, to man's experience, is a space of time too frequently repeated, and amounting consequently to too large numbers, to be readily available in any sort of historic reckoning or reference. It is equally evident that, for such purposes, the year is a period too large to be in any great degree avail-able, until mankind have advanced considerably in mental culture. We accordingly find that, amongst rude nations, the intermediate space of time marked by a revolution of the moon the Month--has always been first employed for historical indications. This completes the series of natural periods or denominations of time, unless we are to agree with those who deem the Week to be also such, one determined by the observation of the principal aspects of the moon, as half in increase, full, half in decrease, and change, or simply by an arithmetical division of the month into four parts. All other denominations, as hours, minutes, &c., are unquestionably arbitrary, and some of them comparatively modern: in fact, deduced from clockwork, without which they could never have been measured or made sensible to us.

On Time Why sit'st thou by that ruined hall,
Thou aged carte, so stern and gray?
ost thou its former pride recall,
Or ponder how it passed away?

Know'st thou not me? the Deep Voice cried,
So long enjoyed, so oft misused
Alternate, in thy fickle pride,
Desired, neglected, and accused?

Before my breath, like blazing flax,
Man and his marvels pass away;
And changing empires wane and wax,
Are founded, flourish, and decay.

Redeem mine hours the space is brief
While in my glass the sand-grains shiver,
And measureless thy joy or grief,
When Time and thou shalt part for ever!

                                                  The Antiquary.


There is a traditionary story very widely diffused over the country, to the effect that St Paul's clock on one occasion struck thirteen at midnight, with the extraordinary result of saving the life of a sentinel accused of sleeping at his post. It is not much less than half a century since the writer heard the tale related in a remote part of Scotland. In later times, the question has been put, Is there any historic basis for this tradition? followed by another still more pertinent, Is the alleged fact mechanically possible ? and to both an affirmative answer has been given.

An obituary notice of John Hatfield, who died at his house in Glasshouse-yard, Aldersgate, on the 18th of June 1770, at the age of 102 which notice appeared in the Public Advertiser a few days afterwards states that, when a soldier in the time of William and Mary, he was tried by a court-martial, on a charge of having fallen asleep when on duty upon the terrace at Windsor. It goes on to state

He absolutely denied the charge against him, and solemnly declared [as a proof of his having been awake at the time], that he heard St Paul's clock strike thirteen, the truth of which was much doubted by the court because of the great distance. But while he was under sentence of death, an affidavit was made by several persons that the clock actually did strike thirteen instead of twelve: whereupon he received his majesty's pardon.' It is added, that a recital of these circumstances was engraved on the coffin-plate of the old soldier,

to satisfy the world of the truth of a story which has been much doubted, though he had often confirmed it to many gentlemen, and a few days before his death told it to several of his acquaintances.'

An allusion to the story occurs in a poem styled A Trip to Windsor, one of a volume published in 1774 under the title of Weeds of Parnassus, by Timothy Scribble:

The terrace walk we with surprise behold,
Of which the guides have oft the story told:
Hatfield, accused of sleeping on his post,
Heard Paul's bell sounding, or his life had lost.'

A correction, however, must here be applied namely, that the clock which struck on this important occasion was Tom of Westminster, which was afterwards removed to St Paul's. It seems a long way for the sound to travel, and when we think of the noises which fill this bustling city even at midnight, the possibility of its being heard even in the suburbs seems faint. Yet we must recollect that London was a much quieter town a hundred and fifty years ago than now, and the fact that the tolling of St Paul's has often been heard at Windsor, is undoubted. There might, moreover, be a favourable state of the atmosphere.

As to the query, Is the striking of thirteen mechanically possible? a correspondent of the Notes and Queries has given it a satisfactory answer.

All striking clocks have two spindles for winding : one of these is for the going part, which turns the hands, and is connected with and regulated by the pendulum or balance-spring. Every time that the minute hand comes to twelve, it raises a catch connected with the striking part (which has been standing still for the previous sixty minutes), and the striking work then makes as many strokes on the bell (or spring gong) as the space between the notch which. the catch has left and the next notch allows. When the catch falls into the next notch, it again stops the striking work till the minute hand reaches twelve again an hour afterwards. Now, if the catch be stiff, so as not to fall into the notch, or the notch be worn so as not to hold it, the clock will strike on till the catch does hold. . . If a clock strike midnight and the succeeding hour together, there is thirteen at once, and very simply. . . If the story of St Paul's clock be true, and it only happened once, it must have been from stiffness or some mechanical obstacles.'

In connection with the above London legend, it is worthy of remark that, on the morning of Thursday the 14th of March 1861,' the inhabitants of the metropolis were roused by repeated strokes of the new great bell of Westminster, and most persons supposed it was for a death in the royal family. It proved, however, to be due to some derangement of the clock, for at four and five o'clock, ten or twelve strokes were struck instead of the proper number.' The gentleman who communicated this fact through the medium of the Notes and Queries, added: On mentioning this in the morning to a friend, who is deep in London antiquities, he observed that there is an opinion in the city that anything the matter with St Paul's great bell is an omen of ill to the royal family; and he added: "I hope the opinion will not extend to the Westminster bell." This was at 11 on Friday morning. I see this morning that it was not till 1 A.M. the lamented Duchess of Kent was considered in the least danger, and, as you are aware, she expired in less than twenty-four hours.'


A watch differs from a clock in its having a vibrating wheel instead of a vibrating pendulum; and, as in a clock, gravity is always pulling the pendulum down to the bottom of its are, which is its natural place of rest, but does not fix it there, because the momentum acquired during its fall from one side carries it up to an equal height on the other so in a watch a spring, generally spiral, surrounding the axis of the balance-wheel, is always pulling this towards a middle position of rest, but does not fix it there, because the momentum acquired during its approach to the middle position from either side carries it just as far past on the other side, and the spring has to begin its work again. The balance-wheel at each vibration allows one tooth of the adjoining wheel to pass, as the pendulum does in a clock: and the record of the beats is preserved by the wheel which follows. A main-spring is used to keep up the motion of the watch, instead of the weight used in a clock; and as a spring acts equally well whatever be its position, a watch keeps time though carried in the pocket, or in a moving ship. In winding up a watch, one turn of the axle on which the key is fixed is rendered equivalent, by the train of wheels, to about 400 turns or beats of the balance-wheel; and thus the exertion, during a few seconds, of the hand which winds up, gives motion for twenty-four or thirty hours. Dr. Arnett.

Part V: The Calendar - Primitive Almanacs