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[From Timbs' Curiosities of London.]
HIS is the oldest Society of its kind in Europe, except the Lyncean Academy at Rome, of which Galileo was a member. The Royal Society originated in London, about 1645, in the weekly meetings of "divers worthy persons inquisitive into natural philosophy, and other parts of human learning; and particularly the new philosophy, or experimental philosophy;" these meetings being first suggested by Theodore Haak, a German of the Palatinate, then resident in the metropolis. This is supposed to be the club which Mr. Boyle, in 1646, designated "the Invisible or Philosophical Society." They met at Dr. Goddard's lodgings in Wood-street; at the Bull's Head Tavern, Cheapside; and at Gresham College. About 1648-9, some of the members, including Dr. (afterwards Bishop) Wilkins, removed to Oxford, and were joined by Seth Smith, Ralph Bathurst, Sir William Petty, and the Hon. Robert Boyle, who met at Petty's lodgings in an apothecary's house, "because of the convenience of inspecting drugs." The members in London continued also to meet, until, in 1658, they were ejected from Gresham College, which was required for barracks. Evelyn, Cowley, and Sir William Petty proposed separate plans for a "philosophical college:" Sprat says that Cowley's proposition accelerated the foundation of the Royal Society, in praise of which he subsequently wrote an ode. At the Restoration, in 1660, the meetings were revived; and April 22, 1662, the Society was incorporated by royal charter, by Charles II. This charter is on four sheets of vellum, and has on the first sheet ornamental initials and flowers, and a finely executed portrait of Charles in Indian ink; appended is the Great Seal in green wax. The charter empowers the President to wear his hat while in the chair, and the fellows addressed the President bareheaded till he made a sign for them to put on their hats; customs now obsolete. Next year the King granted a second charter, which is of greater importance than the first; and his Majesty presented the Society with the silver-gilt mace.
The Mace is about 4 feet in length, and weighs 190 oz. avoirdupois: its stem is chased with the thistle, and has an urn-shaped head, surmounted by a crown, ball, and cross. Upon the head are embossed figures of a rose, harp, thistle, and fleur-de-lis, and the
initials C. R. four times repeated. Under the crown are chased the royal arms; and at the other extremity of the stem are two shields one bearing the Society's arms, the other a Latin inscription denoting the mace to have been presented to the Society by Charles II. in 1663. It was long believed by numberless visitors to be the "bauble" mace turned out of the House of Commons by Cromwell when he dissolved the Long Parliament; but Mr. Weld, the assistant-secretary and librarian, in a communication to the Society, April 30, 1846, proved this to be a popular error, by showing the warrant for making this mace and delivering it to Lord Brouncker, the first President of the Society. Again, the "bauble" was altogether different in form from the Society's mace, and was nearly destitute of ornament, and without the crown and cross, as described in Whitelock's Memorials, and represented accordingly in West's picture of the Dissolution of the Long Parliament.
From this session, 1663, date the Philosophical Transactions, wherein the proceedings and discoveries of the Society are registered. This year the Society exercised their privilege of claiming the bodies of criminals executed at Tyburn, which were to be dissected in Gresham College. In 1664, the king signed himself in the charter-book as the founder; and his brother, the Duke of York, signed as a fellow. In 1667 Chelsea College was granted to the society, for their meetings, laboratory, repository, and library; but the building was too dilapidated, "the annoyance of Prince Rupert's glass-house" adjoined it, and the property was purchased back for the king's use for 1300l. The Society then resumed their meetings in Gresham College, until they were dispersed by the Great Plague and Fire, after which they met in Arundel House in the Strand. The Fellows now (1667) numbered 200, and their subscription 18. per week; from the payment of which Newton, who joined the Society in 1674, was excused, on account of his narrow finances.
In 1674 the Society returned to Gresham College. They were fiercely attacked; a Warwick physician accused them of attempting to undermine the Universities, to bring in popery and absurd novelties; but a severer satire was The Elephant in the Moon, by Butler. Among their early practices was the fellows gathering May-dew, and experimenting with the divining-rod; and the Hon. Robert Boyle believed in the efficacy of the touch of Greatrakes the Stroker for the evil. In 1686 Newton presented his Principia to the Society, whose clerk, Halley, the astronomer, printed the work. The MS., entirely in Newton's hand is preserved in the library.
In 1703 Sir Isaac Newton was elected president. In 1710 the Society purchased the house of Dr. Brown, at the top of Cranecourt, Fleet-street, "being in the middle of the town and out of noise." This house was built by Wren, after the Great Fire of 1666, upon the site of the mansion of Dr. Nicholas Barbon. This new purchase was considered unfortunate for the Society. The house required several hundred pounds' repairs; the rooms were small and inconvenient compared with those of Gresham College; and the removal led to the separation of the Society from the College Professors, after being associated for nearly fifty years. The house in Crane-court fronted a garden, where was a fishpond. There is a small hall on the ground floor, and a passage from the staircase into the garden, fronting which are the meeting-room, 25 feet by 16 feet, and a smaller room. In the former apartment the Society met from 1710 till 1782. It is intact, and is very interesting as the room in which Newton sat in the presidential chair, which is preserved. The Library and Museum were removed here the latter numbered several thousand specimens, the list of which fills twenty pages of Hatton's London, 1708. The house formerly included the present No. 8, in which was kept the Society's library, in cedar-wood cases. In 1782 the Society removed to Somerset House, and sold the Crane-court house to the Scottish Hospital.
The Royal Society then transferred most of their older curiosities to the British Museum. For their meeting-room they had a noble apartment in the east wing of Somerset House; it has an enriched ceiling by Sir William Chambers, and here were given the conversazioni of the Presidents, Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Wollaston, Sir Humphry Davy, Mr. Davies Gilbert, the Earl of Rosse, and Lord Wrottesley. The Duke of Sussex received the Fellows at Kensington Palace; and the Marquis of Northampton at his mansion on the Terrace, Piccadilly. In 1857 the Society removed to Burlington House, which had recently been purchased by the Government, their meeting-room at Somerset House being then given to the Society of Antiquaries, who had hitherto occupied the adjoining rooms.
In "Burlington's fair palace" a large apartment in the western wing of the mansion is fitted up as the Royal Society's meetingIn the elegant suit of rooms, with ceilings painted by Ricci, is the library, and in these apartments the President holds
his annual conversazioni, at which novelties in science and art are shown.
The meeting-room at Burlington House is hung round with the Society's pictures, of which Mr. Weld has prepared an interesting catalogue raisonnée, privately printed: they include three portraits of Newton, by Jervas, Marchand, and Vanderbank; Viscount Brouncker (first president), by Lely; Sir Humphry Davy, by Lawrence; Davies Gilbert and the Marquis of Northampton, by Philips; Sir John Pringle, by Reynolds; Sir Hans Sloane, Lord Somers, Sir J. Williamson, and Sir Christopher Wren, by Kneller; Dr. Wollaston, by Jackson; the Duke of Sussex, by Philips, &c. The Society also possess marble busts of Charles II. and George III., by Nollekens; Sir Joseph Blanks, by Chantrey; John Dollond, by Garland; Davies Gilbert, by Westmacott; Sir Isaac Newton, by Roubiliac; Laplace; Mrs. Somerville, by Chantrey; James Watt, after Chantrey; and Cuvier, in bronze.
Here also are the Exchequer standard yard set off upon the Society's yard: it is of brass, and is of great value since the destruction of the parliament standard; the Society's standard barometer; also the water-barometer, made by Professor Daniell, whose last official service was the refilling of this instrument, in 1844.
The Royal Society distribute four gold medals annually the Rumford, two Royal (value 50 guineas each), and the Copley; and from the donation-fund men of science are assisted in special researches.
THE NORTHERN MYTHOLOGY.
HE Norse cosmogony, or history of the creation of the existing world seen and inhabited, as well as the other worlds provided for glory and happiness, or for degradation and misery, was extremely complicated. Not being restrained by the laws of the Copernicum system, or compelled to treat the earth as a round ball, the inventors of the system created what they wanted-a world of ice here and a fire there, chaoses, seas, abysses, regions of gloom, and sunny fruitful places of happiness, at discretion. The Hell of the system was a peculiar creation, very eloquent of its
northern origin. It does not exactly correspond with our hell as the receptacle of the damned, though it is a place disliked and dreaded as the abode of oblivion, where those who have not by great deeds earned a better fate are absolutely locked up, and detained by strong gates. The character of this place is in harmony with the common story of the Danish missionary Hans Egedge, when he preached to the Greenlanders, requiring to abandon the usual definitions of the place of torment, and describe it as a region of eternal frost. An accomplished Norse scholar thus tells us how "the realm of Hel was all that Walheal was notcold, cheerless, shadowy; no simulated war was there, from which the combatants desisted with renovated strength and glory; no capacious quaighs of mead or cups of the life-giving wine; no feast continually enjoyed and miraculously reproduced; no songs nor narratives of noble deeds; no expectation of the last great battle, when the einherjar were to accompany Allfather to meet his gigantic antagonists; no flashing Shieldmays animating the brave with their discourse, and lightening the hall with their splendour: but chill and ice-frost and darkness; shadowy realms without a sun, without song, or wine, or feast or the soul-inspiring company of heroes, glorying in the great deeds of their worldly life." Valhalla is the reverse of all this. It glitters with gold, and the shields and spears of the countless heroes received into it by its forty gates, which admit eight hundred guests at once. Here there is eternal revel which knows no satiety or pall, and all the fierce joys which the warrior felt on earth are intensified. It is a world of action still, and here is its attraction to those to whom the lazy luxury of the Elysian fields, or the more enervating enjoyments of Oriental paradises, would be no encouragement. It is only, however, for those whom the choosers of the slain promote to happiness. Death on the field was almost a condition of such promotion; and mighty warriors, if they felt death coming on them in another form, would pray to be enclosed in their armour, as a sort of protest that they had worked well for the great object of ambition, a soldier's grave, though the surly fates had denied it to them. To lose all this, and be closed up in a dismal place called hell, it was not necessary that there should be positive misdeed. It was the place for the indolent, the unambitious, and the timid. The mere absence of the high heroism which earned an entrance to Valhalla left no alternative but the other place. For