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To DR. JAMES JOHNSON.
Kingston, Aug. 20, 1834. My dear Sir, Some of the most fertile lands in Jamaica are situated in the mountainous districts. The soils are as various in the high lands as in the plains ; --the common mould, fusca vulgaris ; a dark-coloured loam, lutea montana, or yellow earth; a red earth, subpinguis crocea, and various marls, of which the white friable sort is the most abundant. Generally speaking, the quantity of really rich and fertile land is not so great as the extent of country would lead us to believe. Limestone is the principal formation of the mountains. In the St. Andrew's Mountains there is a white marble which I believe has never been brought into use. Varieties of spars are found in the Blue Mountains : at Port Royal a species of argillaria, a solid formation of clay and gravel. In most of the high lands, immense masses of transition rock
mixed with coral formations, are to be found. Some of the northern rivers, especially Roaring River, have their beds incrusted with depositions of tophus. Livid sulphureous stone is found in the neighbourhood of the most of the hot wells; but I believe real pumice has never been discovered in Jamaicà. Quartz abound in every variety, and the thunderbolt stone, lydium, which the Indians fashioned into those forms for domestic purposes which caused it to be mistaken for an ærolite.
The climate in the high mountains is almost European. At St. Catherine's Peak, the height of 5000 feet above the level of the sea, I have seen the thermometer range from forty-five to sixty-five; while on the Blue Mountain Peak, which is 7700 feet above the sea's level, the thermometer has been known to range from forty-five at sun-rise to fifty-six at noon; while in Kingston, at the same time, the temperature would have been from seventy-five to eighty-five. Frost and snow are unknown in Jamaica ; mountains of less elevation in other parts of the world are seldom without snow on their summits. In the course of a year I have but once seen hailstones, and then of a size which I never saw in Europe. It may give you some better idea of the comparative heights of the mountains of Jamaica, and those remarkable for their elevation in other parts of the world, to set down the height of each,—the former from Martin's History of the British Colonies :
The difference of the climate of the mountains of Jamaica from that of the plains is so great, that a stranger might almost fancy himself transported into a European country. I was not aware of the full extent of this great difference till I visited St. Catharine's Peak. A ride of four hours took me from Kingston to Flamstead, in the neighbourhood of which my friend Mr. Dunn resided, in as dreary a mountain-district as a hermit or a hater of the world might covet for an abode. The following day I intended to ascend the Peak, but the rain set in before day-break, and it fell in torrents throughout the day. In the intervals between the showers, the sweeping of the thin fleecy mist through the declivities of the mountain to me presented a novel and most extraordinary appearance. I had seen nothing like it except in the parish of Thomas in the Vale, where the fog that falls nightly in this district is drifted by the strong winds along the face of the mountains that surround the beautiful vale of Sixteen Mile Walk,
which is situated southerly at the foot of the main ridge of mountains that intersect the island. The vapours begin to gather at night-fall; they are heaviest immediately before sun-rise, and are then dissipated in two streams, one following the course of the mountains, the other of the river. Washington Irving should visit Jamaica to outdo the dreariness of his picture of the wet Sunday at the country-inn in England. A wet Sunday in a desolate mountain-residence in a dreary mountaindistrict in Jamaica, is to a gentleman who has come a pleasuring from the lowlands, one of the miseries in human life in solitary places, and under the depressing control of the “skiey influences,” which is most intolerably wearisome.
The following day I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a medical gentleman, who resides in the Port Royal mountains, who offered to accompany me to St. Catharine’s Peak. This gentleman, who lives in the seclusion of a mountain-residence, is a person whose scientific attainments, and especially his botanical knowledge, are better known in some parts of Great Britain, through his valuable contributions, than they are in Jamaica, or are indeed likely to be estimated there. I have pretty generally observed, that genuine merit and undoubted talent, especially that which is applied to scientific pursuits, are usually combined with qualities which attach us to the private characters
of those who follow them. And perhaps there are no qualities which entitle the scientific man to public estimation more than modesty-the graceful veil which covers merit, but does not conceal it, and the unassuming manners of the man of genius, which present him to our eyes in his own plain and unsophisticated character—" in wit a man, simplicity a child”-and in that character I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. M‘Fadgyen, the gentleman I have just spoken of. If the poor pedant, who struts and frets his hour on the stage of literature or science, -or the self-sufficient savant, who plays the man of learning in society, and labours before the world to astonish the illiterate, were only to see the contrast between bloated pretension and unpresuming merit, he would probably find the comparison so unfavourable to himself, that if his arrogance was not insuperable, he would lower the tone of his dogmatic sagacity, and enlarge, in his own apprehension, the boundaries of human knowledge, by ceasing to believe that any information which he had not was not worth having. He night still continue the Sir Oracle of his own coterie; and when he oped his mouth, his solemn look, at least, might say, “ Let no dog bark;” but
; when he left the society of his own submissive circle, he might learn to accustom his tympanum to the sounds that are most unmusical to the ears of a solemn blockhead or a supercilious sage---the