The Book of the Damned Part 39


The Book of the Damned

The Book of the Damned Part 39

I think we'll take up Monstrator, though there's so much to this subject that we'll have to come back.

According to the _Annual Register_, 9-120, upon the 9th of August, 1762, M. de Rostan, of Basle, France, was taking alt.i.tudes of the sun, at Lausanne. He saw a vast, spindle-shaped body, about three of the sun's digits in breadth and nine in length, advancing slowly across the disk of the sun, or "at no more than half the velocity with which the ordinary solar spots move." It did not disappear until the 7th of September, when it reached the sun's limb. Because of the spindle-like form, I incline to think of a super-Zeppelin, but another observation, which seems to indicate that it was a world, is that, though it was opaque, and "eclipsed the sun," it had around it a kind of nebulosity--or atmosphere? A penumbra would ordinarily be a datum of a sun spot, but there are observations that indicate that this object was at a considerable distance from the sun:

It is recorded that another observer, at Paris, watching the sun, at this time, had not seen this object:

But that M. Croste, at Sole, about forty-five German leagues northward from Lausanne, had seen it, describing the same spindle-form, but disagreeing a little as to breadth. Then comes the important point: that he and M. de Rostan did not see it upon the same part of the sun. This, then, is parallax, and, compounded with invisibility at Paris, is great parallax--or that, in the course of a month, in the summer of 1762, a large, opaque, spindle-shaped body traversed the disk of the sun, but at a great distance from the sun. The writer in the _Register_ says: "In a word, we know of nothing to have recourse to, in the heavens, by which to explain this phenomenon." I suppose he was not a hopeless addict to explaining. Extraordinary--we fear he must have been a man of loose habits in some other respects.

As to us--


In the _Monthly Notices of the R.A.S._, February, 1877, Leverrier, who never lost faith, up to the last day, gives the six observations upon an unknown body of planetary size, that he had formulated:

Fritsche, Oct. 10, 1802; Stark, Oct. 9, 1819; De Cuppis, Oct. 30, 1839; Sidebotham, Nov. 12, 1849; Lescarbault, March 26, 1859; Lummis, March 20, 1862.

If we weren't so accustomed to Science in its essential aspect of Disregard, we'd be mystified and impressed, like the Editor of _Nature_, with the formulation of these data: agreement of so many instances would seem incredible as a coincidence: but our acceptance is that, with just enough disregard, astronomers and fortune-tellers can formulate anything--or we'd engage, ourselves, to formulate periodicities in the crowds in Broadway--say that every Wednesday morning, a tall man, with one leg and a black eye, carrying a rubber plant, the Singer Building, at quarter past ten o'clock. Of course it couldn't really be done, unless such a man did have such periodicity, but if some Wednesday mornings it should be a small child lugging a barrel, or a fat negress with a week's wash, by ordinary disregard that would be prediction good enough for the kind of quasi-existence we're in.

So whether we accuse, or whether we think that the word "accuse"

over-dignifies an att.i.tude toward a quasi-astronomer, or mere figment in a super-dream, our acceptance is that Leverrier never did formulate observations--

That he picked out observations that could be formulated--

That of this type are all formulas--

That, if Leverrier had not been himself helplessly hypnotized, or if he had had in him more than a tincture of realness, never could he have been beguiled by such a quasi-process: but that he was hypnotized, and so extended, or transferred, his condition to others, that upon March 22, 1877, he had this earth bristling with telescopes, with the rigid and almost inanimate forms of astronomers behind them--

And not a blessed thing of any unusuality was seen upon that day or succeeding days.

But that the science of Astronomy suffered the slightest in prestige?

It couldn't. The spirit of 1877 was behind it. If, in an embryo, some cells should not live up to the phenomena of their era, the others will sustain the scheduled appearances. Not until an embryo enters the mammalian stage are cells of the reptilian stage false cells.

It is our acceptance that there were many equally authentic reports upon large planetary bodies that had been seen near the sun; that, of many, Leverrier picked out six; not then deciding that all the other observations related to still other large, planetary bodies, but arbitrarily, or hypnotically, disregarding--or heroically disregarding--every one of them--that to formulate at all he had to exclude falsely. The denouement killed him, I think. I'm not at all inclined to place him with the Grays and Hitchc.o.c.ks and Symonses. I'm not, because, though it was rather unsportsmanlike to put the date so far ahead, he did give a date, and he did stick to it with such a high approximation--

I think Leverrier was translated to the Positive Absolute.

The disregarded:

Observation, of July 26, 1819, by Gruthinson--but that was of two bodies that crossed the sun together--

_Nature_, 14-469:

That, according to the astronomer, J.R. Hind, Benjamin Scott, City Chamberlain of London, and Mr. Wray, had, in 1847, seen a body similar to "Vulcan" cross the sun.

Similar observation by Hind and Lowe, March 12, 1849 (_L'Annee Scientifique_, 1876-9).

_Nature_, 14-505:

Body of apparent size of Mercury, seen, Jan. 29, 1860, by F.A.R. Russell and four other observers, crossing the sun.

De Vico's observation of July 12, 1837 (_Observatory_, 2-424).

_L'Annee Scientifique_, 1865-16:

That another amateur astronomer, M. Coumbray, of Constantinople, had written to Leverrier, that, upon the 8th of March, 1865, he had seen a black point, sharply outlined, traverse the disk of the sun. It detached itself from a group of sun spots near the limb of the sun, and took 48 minutes to reach the other limb. Figuring upon the diagram sent by M.

Coumbray, a central pa.s.sage would have taken a little more than an hour.

This observation was disregarded by Leverrier, because his formula required about four times that velocity. The point here is that these other observations are as authentic as those that Leverrier included; that, then, upon data as good as the data of "Vulcan," there must be other "Vulcans"--the heroic and defiant disregard, then, of trying to formulate one, omitting the others, which, by orthodox doctrine, must have influenced it greatly, if all were in the relatively narrow s.p.a.ce between Mercury and the sun.

Observation upon another such body, of April 4, 1876, by M. Weber, of Berlin. As to this observation, Leverrier was informed by Wolf, in August, 1876 (_L'Annee Scientifique_, 1876-7). It made no difference, so far as can be known, to this notable positivist.

Two other observations noted by Hind and Denning--London _Times_, Nov.

3, 1871, and March 26, 1873.

_Monthly Notices of the R.A.S._, 20-100:

Standacher, February, 1762; Lichtenberg, Nov. 19, 1762; Hoffman, May, 1764; Dangos, Jan. 18, 1798; Stark, Feb. 12, 1820. An observation by Schmidt, Oct. 11, 1847, is said to be doubtful: but, upon page 192, it is said that this doubt had arisen because of a mistaken translation, and two other observations by Schmidt are given: Oct. 14, 1849, and Feb.

18, 1850--also an observation by Lofft, Jan. 6, 1818. Observation by Steinheibel, at Vienna, April 27, 1820 (_Monthly Notices_, 1862).

Haase had collected reports of twenty observations like Lescarbault's.

The list was published in 1872, by Wolf. Also there are other instances like Gruthinsen's:

_Amer. Jour. Sci._, 2-28-446:

Report by Pastorff that he had seen twice in 1836, and once in 1837, two round spots of unequal size moving across the sun, changing position relatively to each other, and taking a different course, if not orbit, each time: that, in 1834, he had seen similar bodies pa.s.s six times across the disk of the sun, looking very much like Mercury in his transits.

March 22, 1876--

But to point out Leverrier's poverty-stricken average--or discovering planets upon a fifty per cent. basis--would be to point out the low percentage of realness in the quasi-myth-stuff of which the whole system is composed. We do not accuse the text-books of omitting this fiasco, but we do note that theirs is the conventional adaptation here of all beguilers who are in difficulties--

The diverting of attention.

It wouldn't be possible in a real existence, with real mentality, to deal with, but I suppose it's good enough for the quasi-intellects that stupefy themselves with text-books. The trick here is to gloss over Leverrier's mistake, and blame Lescarbault--he was only an amateur--had delusions. The reader's attention is led against Lescarbault by a report from M. Lias, director of the Brazilian Coast Survey, who, at the time of Lescarbault's "supposed" observation had been watching the sun in Brazil, and, instead of seeing even ordinary sun spots, had noted that the region of the "supposed transit" was of "uniform intensity."

But the meaninglessness of all utterances in quasi-existence--

"Uniform intensity" turns our way as much as against us--or some day some brain will conceive a way of beating Newton's third law--if every reaction, or resistance, is, or can be, interpretable as stimulus instead of resistance--if this could be done in mechanics, there's a way open here for someone to own the world--specifically in this matter, "uniform intensity" means that Lescarbault saw no ordinary sun spot, just as much as it means that no spot at all was seen upon the sun.

Continuing the interpretation of a resistance as an a.s.sistance, which can always be done with mental forces--making us wonder what applications could be made with steam and electric forces--we point out that invisibility in Brazil means parallax quite as truly as it means absence, and, inasmuch as "Vulcan" was supposed to be distant from the sun, we interpret denial as corroboration--method of course of every scientist, politician, theologian, high-school debater.

So the text-books, with no especial cleverness, because no especial cleverness is needed, lead the reader into contempt for the amateur of Orgeres, and forgetfulness of Leverrier--and some other subject is taken up.

But our own acceptance:

That these data are as good as ever they were;

That, if someone of eminence should predict an earthquake, and if there should be no earthquake at the predicted time, that would discredit the prophet, but data of past earthquakes would remain as good as ever they had been. It is easy enough to smile at the illusion of a single amateur--

The ma.s.s-formation:

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