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It will hardly be necessary to mention that several of the forer Esays are rather intended to amuse than to instruct

The Eway on the infuence which marriage has been supposed to exert on the death-rate is the one referred to by Mr. Darwin at page 176 (vcl. i.) of his Descent of Man.'

This and the other Essays from the Daily News' are selected from a large number of articles which I wrote in the years 1868-70. It was by my kind friend Mr. Walker, formerly editor of the Daily News,' that I was first urged to collect my Essays into a volume. I have to thank the proprietors and the present editor of the Daily News,' and the proprietors and editors of the other journals from which the present series has been selected, for freely according me permission to reprint these Essays.

RICHARD A. PROCTOR.

LONDON: May 1871.

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LIGHT SCIENCE

FOR LEISURE HOURS.

the

STRANGE DISCOVERIES RESPECTING

THE AURORA.

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ONE of the most mysterious and beautiful of Nature's manifestations promises soon to disclose its secret. The brilliant streamers of coloured light which wave at certain seasons over the heavens have long since been recognised as among the most singular and impressive of all the phenomena which the skies present to our view. There is something surpassingly beautiful in appearance of the true auroral curtain.' Fringed with coloured streamers, it waves to and fro as though shaken by some unseen hand. Then from end to end there pass a succession of undulations, the folds of the curtain interwrapping and forming a series of graceful curves. Suddenly, and as by magic, there succeeds a perfect stillness, as though the unseen power which had been displaying the varied beauties of the auroral curtain were resting for a moment. But even while the motion of the curtain is stilled we see

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its light mysteriously waxing and waning. Then as we gaze, fresh waves of disturbance traverse the magic canopy. Startling coruscations add splendour to the scene, while the noble span of the auroral arch from which the waving curtain seems to depend, gives a grandeur to the spectacle which no words can adequately describe. Gradually, however, the celestial fires which have illuminated the gorgeous arch seem to die out. The luminous zone breaks up. The scene of the display becomes covered with scattered streaks and patches of ashen grey light, which hang like clouds over the northern heavens. Then these in turn disappear, and nothing remains of the brilliant spectacle but a dark smoke-like segment on the horizon.

Such is the aurora as seen in arctic or antarctic regions, where the phenomenon appears in its fullest beauty. Even in our own latitudes, however, strikingly beautiful auroral displays may sometimes be witnessed. Yet those who have seen the spectacle presented near the true home of the aurora, recognise in other auroras a want of the fulness and splendour of colour which form the most striking features of the arctic and antarctic auroral curtains.

Hitherto the nature of the aurora has been a mystery to men of science; nor, indeed, does the discovery we are about to describe throw even now full light on the character of the phenomenon. That discovery, however, affords promise of a speedy solution of the perplexing problems presented by auroral dis

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