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Category: Science

The Geology of Society II



We last week described the different strata of society comprehended in the INFERIOR SERIES, and the lower portion of the Clapham Group. We now beg to call the attention of our readers to a most important division in the next great formation—which has been termed the TRANSITION CLASS—because the individuals composing it are in a gradual state of elevation, and have a tendency to mix with the superior strata. By referring to the scale which we gave in our first section, it will be seen that the lowest layer in this class is formed by the people who keep shops and one-horse “shays,” and go to Ramsgate for three weeks in the dog-days. They all exhibit evidences of having been thrown up from a low to a high level. The elevating causes are numerous, but the most remarkable are those which arise from the action of unexpected legacies. Lotteries were formerly the cause of remarkable elevations; and speculation in the funds may be still considered as amongst the elevating causes, though their effect is frequently to cause a sudden sinking. Lying immediately above the “shop and shay” people, we find the old substantial merchant, who every day precisely as the clock strikes ten is in the act of hanging up his hat in his little back counting-house in Fenchurch-street. His private house, however, is at Brixton-hill, where the gentility of the family is supported by his wife, two daughters, a piano, and a servant in livery. The best and finest specimens of this strata are susceptible of a slight polish; they are found very useful in the construction of joint stock banks, railroads, and other speculations where a good foundation is required. We now come to the Russell-square group, which comprehends all those people who “live private,” and aim at being thought fashionable and independent. Many individuals of this group are nevertheless supposed by many to be privately connected with some trading concern in the City. It is a distinguishing characteristic of the second layer in this group to have a tendency to give dinners to the superior series, while the specimens of the upper stratum are always found in close proximity to a carriage. Family descent, which is a marked peculiarity of the SUPERIOR CLASS, is rarely to be met with in the Russell-square group. The fossil animals which exist in this group are not numerous: they are for the most part decayed barristers and superannuated doctors. Of the ST. JAMES’S SERIES it is sufficient to say that it consists of four strata, of which the superior specimens are usually found attached to coronets. Most of the precious stones, as diamonds, rubies, emeralds, are also to be found in this layer. The materials of which it is composed are various, and appear originally to have belonged to the inferior classes; and the only use to which it can be applied is in the construction of peers. Throughout all the classes there occur what are called veins, containing diverse substances. The larking vein is extremely abundant in the superior classes—it is rich in brass knockers, bell handles, and policemen’s rattles; this vein descends through all the lower strata, the specimens in each differing according to the situation in which they are found; the middle classes being generally discovered deposited in the Coal-hole Tavern or the Cider-cellars, while the individuals of the very inferior order are usually discovered in gin-shops and low pot-houses, and not unfrequently

A drunk lays on the floor surrounded by pitchers and pours the contents of one on his head.EMBEDDED IN QUARTS(Z).

(23rd October 1841)


The Geology of Society


The study of Geology, in the narrow acceptation of the word, is confined to the investigation of the materials which compose this terrestrial globe;—in its more extended signification, it relates, also, to the examination of the different layers or strata of society, as they are to be met with in the world.

Society is divided into three great strata, called High Life—Middle Life—and Low Life. Each of these strata contains several classes, which have been ranged in the following order, descending from the highest to the lowest—that is, from the drawing-room of St. James’s to the cellar in St. Giles’s.

High Life. Superior Class. ST. JAMES’S SERIES.
People wearing coronets.
People related to coronets.
People having no coronet, but who expect to get one.
People who talk of their grandfathers, and keep a carriage.
Transition Class. SECONDARY.
(Russell-square group.)
People who keep a carriage, but are silent respecting their grandfathers.
Middle Life. People who give dinners to the superior series.
People who talk of the four per cents, and are suspected of being mixed up in a grocery concern in the City.
(Clapham group.)
People who “confess the Cape,” and say, that though Pa amuses himself in the dry-salter line in Fenchurch-street, he needn’t do it if he didn’t like.
People who keep a shop “concern” and a one-horse shay, and go to Ramsgate for three weeks in the dog-days.
Metamorphic Class. People who keep a “concern,” but no shay, do the genteel with the light porter in livery on solemn occasions.
People, known as “shabby-genteels,” who prefer walking to riding, and study Kidd’s “How to live on a hundred a-year.”
(Whitechapel group.)
Low Life. People who dine at one o’clock, and drink stout out of the pewter, at the White Conduit Gardens.
Primitive Formation. People who think Bluchers fashionable, and ride in pleasure “wans” to Richmond on Sundays in summer.
(St. Giles’s group.)
Tag-rag and bob-tail in varieties.

It will be seen, by a glance at the above table, that the three great divisions of society, namely, High Life, Low Life, and Middle Life, are subdivided, or more properly, sub-classed, into the Superior, Transition, and Metamorphic classes. Lower still than these in the social scale is the Primitive Formation—which may be described as the basis and support of all the other classes. The individuals comprising it may be distinguished by their ragged surface, and shocking bad hats; they effervesce strongly with gin or Irish whiskey. This class comprehends the St. Giles’s Group—(which is the lowest of all the others, and is found only in the great London basin)—and that portion of the Whitechapel group whose individuals wear Bluchers and ride in pleasure ‘wans’ to Richmond on Sundays. In man’s economy the St. Giles’s Group are exceedingly important, being usually employed in the erection of buildings, where their great durability and hod-bearing qualities are conspicuous. Next in order is the Metamorphic class—so called, because of the singular metamorphoses that once a week takes place amongst its individuals; their common every-day appearance, which approaches nearly to that of the St. Giles’s Group, being changed, on Sundays, to a variegated-coloured surface, with bright buttons and a shining “four-and-nine”—goss. This class includes the upper portion of the Whitechapel Group, and the two lower strata of the Clapham Group. The Whitechapel Group is the most elevated layer of the inferior series. The Shabby Genteel stratum occupies a wide extent on the Surrey side of the water—it is part of the Clapham Group, and is found in large quantities in the neighbourhood of Kennington, Vauxhall, and the Old Kent-road. A large vein of it is also to be met with at Mile-end and Chelsea. It is the lowest of the secondary formation. This stratum is characterised by its fossil remains—a great variety of miscellaneous articles—such as watches, rings, and silk waistcoats and snuff-boxes being found firmly imbedded in what are technically termed avuncular depositories. The deposition of these matters has been referred by the curious to various causes; the most general supposition being, a peremptory demand for rent, or the like, on some particular occasion, when they were carried either by the owner, his wife, or daughter, from their original to their present position, and left amongst an accumulation of “popped” articles from various districts. The chief evidence on this point is not derived from the fossils themselves, but from their duplicates, which afford the most satisfactory proof of the period at which they were deposited. Articles which appear originally to have belonged to the neighbourhood of Belgrave-square have been frequently found in the depositories of the district between Bethnal-green and Spitalfields. By what social deluge they could have been conveyed to such a distance, is a question that has long puzzled the ablest geologists. Immediately above the “shabby genteel” stratum are found the people who “keep a shop concern, but no shay;” it is the uppermost layer of the Metamorphic Class, and, in some instances, may be detected mingling with the supra-genteel Clapham Group. The “shop and no shay” stratum forms a considerable portion of the London basin. It is characterised by its coarseness of texture, and a conglomeration of the parts of speech. Its animal remains usually consist of retired licensed victuallers and obese tallow-chandlers, who are generally found in beds of soft formation, separated from superincumbent layers of Marseilles quilts, by interposing strata of thick double Witneys.

Having proceeded thus far upwards in the social formation, we shall pause until next week, when we shall commence with the lower portion of the TRANSITION CLASS—the “shop and shay people”—and, as we hope, convince our readers of the immense importance of our subject, and the great advantage of studying the strata of human life.

Geology at this period is the trendy new science that all of the cool kids are into – as it is now, of course.

There will be a couple more of these to come.

(October 16, 1841)

Geology: the best job there is


Sir Charles Lyell, according to a correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, is credited with the saying that there are three things necessary for a geologist: the first is to travel; the second is to travel; and the third, also, is to travel. This seems to mean that your geologist must travel, travel, travel over the face of the earth in order to be enabled to explore its interior.

Awesome quote there from Charles Lyell.

(January 1872)

In Memoriam Michael Faraday

BORN: 1794. DIED: 1867

STATESMEN and soldiers, authors, artists, still
The top-most leaves fall off our English oak :
Some in green summer’s prime, some in the chill
Of autumn-tide, some by late winter’s stroke.

Another leaf has dropped on that sere heap
One that hung highest ; earliest to invite
The golden kiss of morn, and last to keep
The fire of eve but still turned to the light.

No soldier’s, statesman’s, poet’s, painter’s name
Was this, through wluch is drawn Death’s last black line ;
But one of rarer, if not loftier fame
A Priest of Truth, who lived within her shrine.

A Priest of Truth : his office to expound
Earth’s mysteries to all who willed to hear
Who in the book of Science sought and found,
With love, that knew all reverence, but no fear.

A Priest, who prayed as well as ministered :
Who grasped the faith he preached, and held it fast :
Knowing the light he followed never stirred,
Howe’er might drive the clouds through which it past.

And if Truth’s priest, servant of Science too,
Whose work was wrought for love and not for gain :
Not one of those who serve but to ensue
Their private profit : lordship to attain

Over their lord, and bind him in green withes,
For grinding at the mill ‘neath rod and cord ;
Of the large grist that they may take their tithes
So some serve Science that call Science Lord.

One rule his life was fashioned to fulfil :
That he who tends Truth’s shrine, and does the best
Of Science, with a humble, faithful will,
The God of Truth and Knowledge serveth best.

And from his humbleness what heights he won !
By slow march of induction, pace on pace,
Scaling the peaks that seem to strike the sun,
Whence few can look, unblinded, in his face.

Until he reached the stand which they that win
A bird’s-eye glance o’er Nature’s realm may throw :
Whence the mind’s ken by larger sweeps takes in
What seems confusion, looked at from below.

Till out of seeming Chaos Order grows,
In ever-widening orbs of Law restrained,
And the Creation’s mighty music flows
In perfect harmony, serene, sustained ,;

And from varieties of force and power, A larger unity and larger still,
Broadens to view, till in some breathless hour.
All force is known grasped in a central Will,

Thunder and light revealed as one same strength-
Modes of the force that works at Nature’s heart-
And through the Universe’s veined length
Bids, wave on wave, mysterious pulses

That cosmic heart-beat it was his to list,
To trace those pulses in tlieir ebb and flow
Towards the fountain-head, where they subsist
In form as yet not given e’en him to know.

Yet, living face to face with these great laws,
Great truths, great myst’ries, all who saw him near
Knew him for child-like, simple, free from flaws
Of temper, full of love that casts out fear -.

Untired in charity, of cheer serene ;
Not caring world’s wealth or good word to earn ;
Childhood’s or manhood’s ear content to win ;
And still as glad to teach as meek to learn.

Such lives are precious ; not so much for all
Of wider insight won where they have striven,
As for the still small voice with which they call
Along the beamy way from earth to heaven.

Michael Faraday died on this day, 145 years ago.

(25th August 1867)

In the deep dark ocean

I was rather struck by how beautiful this plate was.

We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about that of the deep ocean.

It is rather cliched to say that, but it is nonetheless true.

We may not find mermaids, but the bizzarre sorts of life that we do find down there I’ll bet will surprise us. You never know; perhaps the last remnants of the trilobites are down there.

On more Earthly matters though; what a truly astounding achievement the first transatlantic cable was. Most people – certainly myself – are more than just a little surprised to find out that it was lain in 1858; barely 20 years after the invention of the telegraph, and only 8 years after lying the line from England to France.

Once it was lain, the first words said were

Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will toward men

After that, Queen Victoria and president James Buchanan sent messages to one another.

“The Queen desires to congratulate the President upon the successful completion of this great international work, in which the Queen has taken the deepest interest. The Queen is convinced that the President will join with her in fervently hoping that the electric cable, which now connects Great Britain with the United States, will prove an additional link between the two places whose friendship is founded upon their common interests and reciprocal esteem. The Queen has much pleasure in thus directly communicating with the President, and in renewing to him her best wishes for the prosperity of the United States.”

The message took 16 hours to send by Morse code through 2,500 miles of cable. This is the route that the cable took,

However, the cable unfortunately stopped working after just a few months. Facing a public backlash, the company responsible rapidly replaced the cable with a better one that could communicate considerably faster in 1866, which is what the cartoon above refers to.

(Prologue of the 1866 almanack)

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