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No. 62.) FEBRUARY, 1822. (Vol. VI.
The island of Staffa is one of the Hebrides, or Western islands of Scotland: it is situated in 57' N. lat. and 15 miles west of the island of Mull. Its form is oblong and irregular; its coasts are stérp aud craggy, surrounded with superb basaltic causeways, and hollowed into caves, of which the Cave of Fingal is the chief. The isle is accessible only by a small
opening, where the precipice sinks into a slope, which will just admit a small boat, and that only in the calmest weather. The total circumference of Staffa is little more than two miles. The most elevated part of the island is over the Caye of Fingal, where it rises about 114 feet above the level of the sea in ordinary tides. The sides of this vast rock are entirely bare; the waves and currents batter and undermine them every where. There is, on the highest part only, a flat piece of ground covered with a thin dry turf, part of which is broken up, where a few oats and potatoes are raised. It has also a small pasturage, and a scanty spring, which would be soon dried up, were it pot that the climate is so rainy. There is neither tree nor bush to be seen; and for firing, the inhabitants are obliged to make use of a bad sod, which they cut in the summer season in order to dry it. It cannot be called peat, for it consists simply of the fibrous roots of common grass, intermixed with earth. It would be impossible to find a worse fuel, but here necessity leaves them no option. · When Sir Joseph BANKS visited this island, in the year 1772, with Troil, and several other na. turalists, it belonged to Mr. LACHLAN M‘QUARRIE, and had only one inhabitant upon it. Troi! says, 6 There is only one hut on the island, which is occupied by a peasant, who attends some cattle that pasture there. To testify his joy for our arrival, he sang all night over in the Erse language, which we did not understand."*
At the time when Sr. Fond visited the island, about the year 1798, it belonged to Col. CHARLES CAMPBELL,
* Letters on Iceland, by TROIL, Archbishop of Linckoeping,
of Campbelltown in Cantyre, and was let at the rent of 121. per annum; probably on account of its fishery ; for its territorial value must be considered as nothing. The total population at that time consisted of two families, and amounted, men, women, and children, to sixteen. Belonging to these, there were eight cows and one bull, twelve sheep,'two horses, one hog, two dogs, eight hens, and one cock.
Sir Joseph Banks was the first who favoured the world with a particular description of the Cave of Fingal, of which he speaks in the following ternis. “The impatience which every one felt to see the wonders we had heard so largely described, prevented our morning's rest; all were up and in motion before the break of day, and, with the first light, arrived at the south-west part of the island, the seat of the most remarkable pillars, where we no sooner arrived, than we were struck with a scene of magnificence which exceeded our most sanguine expectations. The whole of that part of the island is supported by ranges of natural pillars, mostly above 50 feet high, standing in natural colonnades, according as the bays, or points of lands, form themselves, upon a firm basis of solid rock. In a short time we arrived at the Cave, thre. most magnificent, I suppose, that has ever been described by travellers. The mind can hardly form au idea more magnificent than such a space, supportert on each side by ranges of columns, and roofed by the bottoms of those that have been broken off in order to form it; between the angles of which, a yellow stalagmitic matter has exuded, which serves to define the angles precisely, and at the same time varies the colour with a great deal of elegance. To render it still more agreeable, the whole is lighted from with.
out, so that the farthest extremity is very plainly seen from the entrance ; and the air within, being agitated by the flux and reflux of the tides, is perfectly dry and wholesome, and free from the damp vapours with which natural caverns in general abound.” .
Nor was the ARCHBISHOP of LINCKO EPING less affected with the sublimity of the scenery, as appears from his description. “How splendid,” says he, “do the porticoes of the ancients appear in our eyes, from the ostentatious descriptions we have received of their magnificence; and with what admiration are we seized on seeing even the colonnades of our modern edifices ! But when we behold the Cave of Fingal, formed by nature, in the Isle of Staffa, it is no longer possible to make a comparison, and we are forced to acknowledge that this piece of architecture, executed by nature, far surpasses that of the Louvre, that of St. Peter's at Rome, and exen what remains at Palmyra and Pæstum, and all that the genius, the taste, and the luxury of Greece, Egypt, or Rome, were ever capable of inventing."-St. Fond says, “I have seen many ancient volcanoes, and have given descriptions of several superb basaltic causeways and delightful caverns in the midst of lava; but I never found any thing which can bear a comparison with the Cave of Fingal, either for the height of the arch, the situation, the forms, the elegance of this production of nature, of its resemblance to the master-pieces of art, though this had no share in its construction.”—The following are its dimensions :-Breadth of the entrance at the mouth of the cave, 35 feet; height, from the level of the sea, to the pitch of the arch, 56 feet; interior length of the cave, 140 feet; height of the tallest columns on the right side of the entrance, 45 feet;