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(No. 66, February 13, 1830.)
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completely into the merits of the present interesting controversy, we shall now lay these six Propositions before
them : A Letter to Sir Henry Steuart, Bart., on the Improve
“ First, That all timber trees thrive best, and produce ment of the Quality of Timber, to be Effected by the
wood of the best quality, when growing in soils and climates High Cultivation and Quick Growth of Forest-Trees,
most natural to the species. It should therefore be the anin Reply to certain Passages in his “ Planter's Guide." | xious stady of the planter,
xious study of the planter, to ascertain and become well acBy W. Withers, Holt. London. Messrs Longman, 1 quainted with these, and to raise trees, as much as possible, Rees, Orme, and Co. 1829. 8vo. Pp. 133.
in such soils and climates.
“ Secondly, That trees may be said to be in their natural We are about to direct the attention of our readers to state, when they bave sprung up fortuitously, and propathe pamphlet, the title of which we have just copied, for two gated themselves without aid from man, whether it be in reasons ; first, because the raising of the best Oak timber | aboriginal forests, ancient woodlands, commons, or the like. for Naval purposes is one of the most important subjects
That in such trees, whatever tends to increase the wood, in that can be brought under the consideration of a Briton;
a greater degree than accords with the species when in its
natural state, must injure the quality of the timber. and secondly, because, as Scotchmen, we consider it a duty
“ Thirdly, That whatever tends to increase the growth we owe to our countryman, Sir Henry Steuart, the ablest
of trees, tends to erpand their vegetable fibre; that when arboriculturist now living, to place on the clearest footing that takes place, or when the annual circles of the wood are the justice of his views concerning the cultivation of Fo soft, and larger than the general annual increase of the tree rest-Trees, as well as to expose the dangerous ignorance should warrant, then this timber must be less hard and of those, and especially of Mr Withers, who have ventured der
of Mr Withers, who have ventured | dense, and more liable to suffer from the action of the eleto dispute the accuracy of his conclusions. It is allowed,
“ Fourthly, That a certain slowness of growth is essenwe believe, on all hands, and is a fact of which Scotland
tially necessary to the closeness of texture and durability of has reason to be proud, that Sir Henry Steuart's “ Plant
all timber, but especially of the oak; and that, wherever er's Guide” was the first attempt that was made, in the growth of that wood is unduly accelerated by culture any language, to apply the sciences of physiology and ebe-l of the soil-such as by trenching and manuring-or by un. mistry to general planting, and thereby to raise it from a due superiority of climate, it will be injured in quality in mechanical and fortuitous, to the rank of a scientific art, the precise ratio in which these agents have been employed. thus imparting to it, when considered particularly in
“Fifthly, That, as it is extremely important for the suc
cess of trees, to possess a certain degree of vigour in the outreference to the British navy, an importance, which can
set, or to be what is technically called 'well set off,' the aid scarcely be too much magpified. The natural consequence
of culture is not to be in every case precluded, by a consiwas, that the “ Planter's Guide” attracted immediate deration of the general rule. That if trees be in a soil and attention in the very highest quarters. It was reviewed climate worse than those that are natural to them, then culby Sir Walter Scott in the Quarterly Review; and it was ture will be of some advantage; as the extra increase of also reviewed, in a very masterly and scientific way, in the wood will be of a quality not inferior to what in its na. Edinburgh Review, by an English clergyman, resident in
tural state it would obtain; or, in other words, it will cor
respond with that degree of quality and quantity of timber, Kent, whose name holds deservedly a prominent place
which the nature of the species admits of being obtained. among the pbytologists of Europe. In many other pub- But culture, in this case, must be applied with cautious lications, both scientific and literary, the work was spoken discrimination, and a sound judgment. That, on the other of with the highest approbation ; and our readers may hand, if trees be in a beller soil and climate than are natuperhaps recollect, that in the tenth Number of the Lite- ral to them, and, at the same time, that the annual increase rary Journal, we endeavoured, as far as in us lay, to do of wood be promoted by culture, (as already said, it will be something like justice to its merits.
a decided disadvantage, and deteriorate the wood. In the
same way, if trees be in their natural state, the annual inIn this state of matters, Mr William Withers, Attorney
crease of timber, obtained by culture, will injure its quality, in Holt, Norfolk, has thought it incumbent upon him to
in a degree corresponding with the increased quantity, come forward, to point out what he conceives to be certain
“ Sixthly, That such appears to be a correct, though fallacies in Sir Henry's book. In 1828, Mr Withers condensed view of the operation of those general laws republished a “ Letter to Sir Walter Scott,” in which he specting growth, which govern the whole vegetable kingundertook to expose some “ fundamental errors” in an com, and especially their effects on woody plants, and of the Essay on the Planting of Waste Lands, which Sir Wal- | salutary restraints which science dictates to be laid on artiter had contributed to the 720 Number of the Quarterly Review. In this Letter, Mr Withers advanced doctrines, * « Some trees, however, and herbaceous plants, may be said to to some of which Sir Henry Steuart could by no means
be naturalized to certain situations, in which, without the aid of art,
they never would have been found. Thus,' says Mr Loudon, we agree; and accordingly, in the second edition of his sometimes find mountain piants common in plains, and even in me?. " Planter's Guide," he dedicated several pages to their
dows, and alpine trees, which disseminate themselves in warmer and
more level districts. But the botanist, by comparing the effects of consideration, in the course of which he laid down six
these different situations on the vegetable, always knows how to sePropositions concerning the Culture of trees, which appear lect, as general nature, that which perfects all its parts, and where
the soil and situation are best suited to the reproduction of the speto us, though not to Mr Withers, to be among the very
cies, and the prolongation of individual life. These rules,' adds he, best things ever written on planting, giving, as they do, . are founded in nature. For example: No person, judging froin a condensed view of many of the most important princi
them, could mistake a warm English common, for the natural soil
and situation of the Scotch fir, though it frequently is found growing ples, of the art. That our readers may be able to enter there.'"-Form, and Improv. of Countı, Resid.
ficial culture, of which pruning, as well as manuring, forms six Propositions, which he ought of course to have quoted a constituent part, as has been explained above at so much l in limine, and not to have misrepresented, before attempt. length. That it is by a diligent study of the peculiar habits in
ing to controvert them, we proceed at once to consider, of trees, and the characters of soils, illustrated and regulated by facts drawn from general experience, that rash or igno.
| upon its own merits, the weighty question_“ How is the rant systems of arboriculture are to be best corrected, and
| best Oak to be obtained ?" and, in doing so, we are happy science brought most beneficially to bear on general prac to state, that our opinions differ in no one particular from tice.”
those of the author of the “ Planter's Guide." In opposition to the conclusions contained in these pro The first thing to be considered is, the peculiar characpositions, the object of Mr Withers's present “ Letter" is ter of the oak, with which every intelligent planter is well to prove two things; Ist, that Sir Henry Steuart's prin acquainted. It is in its habits the most accommodating ciples of arboriculture are inconsistent and contradictory, of all trees, and will grow in almost all soils and climates; inasmuch as he recommends culture and manuring in the but it will fully thrive in those soils and climates only that highest degree in the body of his work, and then repro- are natural to it—that is, where it most readily reprobates and rejects them in his notes and illustrations; and I duces and perfects its species, and attains the greatest 2d, that the cultivating and manuring of woodlands is length of individual life. The intelligent planter is further necessarily beneficial in all cases, whatever may be said of aware, that, for these purposes, this tree requires a strong, the laws of nature, or the results of experience, to contro deep, loamy, or clayey soil, and a temperate climate. vert the practice.
These form the conditions of its perfect existence. If, It will require very few words to make it evident to then, we are to enquire what will improve, or what will every one, that Mr Withers's first ground of complaint is injure, the quality of the oak in general, or of different captious and uncalled for. When Sir Henry Steuart un- oak trees in different situations; or if we are to comparo dertook to draw up a Treatise on the best method of such trees with one another, for the sake of illustrating giving “ Immediate Effect to Wood," he did not, of course, some principle of theory or practice, our enquiry must conceive himself bound to enter into a discussion or de- bear reference to the conditions of their existence, and to tail of the general principles, which are laid down in his the extent to which those conditions may be supplied, if six propositions. He took up, as his proximate object, a we wish the result to be correct or conclusive. For if particular department of the art of Planting, and all he we compare, for example, the qualities of slowly raised had to do was to make it appear, how trees could be raised oaks on light land, or in a warm climate, with those of within the shortest period, without taking into considera- oaks quickly raised on heavy land, in a temperate climate, tion, whether they contained the best possible timber or it is tantamount to the comparing of bad oaks with good, not; and if the system proposed should ensure to the pos and of course there can be no doubt of the result of the sessors “ sound and valuable wood," it was all they had comparison. a right to expect. For this purpose, it is obvious that, These premises being shortly stated, we come to the according to every principle of science, the highest degree question at issue,- What is the effect that general culture of culture was requisite, that art or ingenuity could de- produces on the oak?-culture, of course, including vise. But, at the same time, Sir Henry was careful to trenching and manuring, or amelioration of the soil or explain, that, as trenching and manuring can be advan-climate beyond the natural state. The answer is precisely tageous only to particular portions of extensive woodlands, what Sir Henry Steuart has set forth. It expands the and under particular circumstances, in order to produce vegetable fibre; it unduly promotes quickness of growth, the best timber, so they cannot be applied to any wood- and consequently deteriorates the quality of the wood; land indiscriminately, “ unless where either a speedy re- it being always understood, that the tree previously is in turn of crop, and marketable timber, but nothing more, are possession of the conditions already described. On the expected." * There is, therefore, no inconsistency or other hand, a certain slowness of growth improves the contradiction whatever, in the arboricultural theories ad-quality of the wood, by adding to its closeness of texture vanced in his work. The art of giving “immediate effect and durability. It follows, then-as is distinctly stated to wood,” where artificial culture is essentially need ful, in Sir Henry's fourth proposition—that wherever growth is entirely distinct from that of general planting, the prin- is unduly accelerated by culture of the soil, such as by ciples of which are contained in the six Propositions, to-trenching and manuring, or by undue superiority of cligether with a short view of the laws respecting growth, mate, the wood will be injured in quality, in the precise and of the salutary restraints which science dictates should ratio in which those agents are employed. In like manbe laid on artificial culture, of which trenching, manuring, ner-as is mentioned in the fifth proposition if trees be and pruning, all form a part. Under this simple view in a soil or climate worse than is natural to them, then of the subject, all Mr Withers's declamation evaporates in culture will be of advantage, and will improve the quality smoke, even although it is bolstered up with something of the wood. On the other hand, if trees be in a better like professional manœuvring and mystification ; for, be soil or climate than is natural to them, and culture be it remembered that Mr Withers is an attorney.t. applied, it will be a disadvautage, and deteriorate the
What Mr Withers undertakes to prove under his se- wood. In the same way, if trees be in their natural cond head, is of far greater interest and importance-name- state, culture will injure the quality of the timber, in a ly, that trenching and manuring may be safely used in degree corresponding to the increased quantity produced. tree culture under any circumstances, and that, in fact, Hence it is plain, that, in certain cases, culture may be the richer the ground be made by manure, the better will very properly applied for the amelioration of timber, but be the quality of the wood. Passing over the garbled it should be done under the control of science, and of a view which our attorney gives of Sir Henry Steuart's sound judgment.
This short account of the operation of those general • Planter's Guide, p. 474.
laws respecting growth which govern the whole vegeta| As a specimen of this mystification, which, perhaps, may succeed ble kingdom, is such as we should really have supposed with some of the country gentlemen of England, it is worth while remarking, that Mr Withers asserts, that the application of trenching
could not have been easily misunderstood or misrepre and manuring to tree culture is an "original discovery" of his own, sented, had not Mr Withers come forward with his prealthough Sir Henry Steuart has shown it to be as old as the time of the Romans, and the practice of which has been familiar to every
sent attempt. Let us, however, look for a moment to intelligent gardener in this country for the two last centuries. Sixty
the proofs of his position, that the highest degree of culyears ago, Mr Guthrie of Craigie, in the county of Angus, trenched ture is in all cases the best. It were in vain to expect and manured all his plantations at that place, and introduced the practice among his neighbours. Several gentlemen, in both Aber.
him to deduce bis evidence physiologically, from the soil deenshire and Northumberland, did the same thing soon after this and climate, natural or unnatural to the oak, or from the pcriod. We wonder that Mr Withers does not write a pamphlet to style of its organization and peculiar habits. recommend the public use of rail-ways and steam-navigation, both of
We have it which might then come to be considered as original discoveries."" on the authority of Mr Withers himself that there are few
men in England, who have ever planted a tree, so utterly that will decline, or altogether become stationary, if ignorant of all arboricultural science. From his “ Letter to planted on any other soils. Some, however, show more, Sir Walter Scott," published in 1828, we learn that he knows and some less, of this sort of phytological affinity. But nothing of Scotland or Ireland, or of any other part of the the oak is, of all plants, the most accommodating, as has world, except Norfolk, and that his observations on wood, been already observed. It will grow in any sort of soil, and the modes of raising it, are wholly confined to that from the dampest to the driest, from the most silicious to county, where, as we understand, he possesses a cabbage gar- the most aluminous. But it loves only the last mentioned, den, and a small piece of nursery ground. From his pamph- and will truly thrive that is, it will perfect its species let, we clearly perceive, that he is utterly ignorant of ge- on one that is strong, deep, and loamy, or, in other words, neral planting, or its history and progress in Britain, in a good, rich, heavy soil. Mr Withers either does, or does France, or any other continental country, and that vege- not, know this. If he does know it, he means, by a table physiology and the anatomy of plants have not statement like the above-and there are many such to be come within the line of his studies. What a man, there found in his pamphlet-to impose upon his readers, whom fore, so admirably qualified to maintain a phytological he must consider as the most gullible of men. If he does argument, does not know himself, he naturally seeks to not, then he is the most ignorant planter that ever prelearn from others. With a peculiar obtuseness of intellect, tended to write upon trees, or to give instruction to however, Mr Withers, instead of propounding Sir Henry others. Steuart's six propositions, or any thing like them, to com But we have not yet got to the summit of Mr Withers's petent judges, puts the following notable query to about absurdity as a planter, which, in legitimate climax, rises eighteen or nineteen different persons, who, being for the to the last, and is to be found at page 115, et seqq., near most part timber-merchants, are nearly as ignorant of rai. the close of the pamphlet. A Mr Farrow-still another sing the oak as himself :-" Whether have you found," timber-merchant here comes forward to his assistance, says he, “ that fine fast-growing timber, when arrived | This man modestly professes no knowledge of arboriculat maturity, was inferior in quality to timber of slower ture, but he merely practises (as he says) the buying, growth; and whether do you think that the application selling, and “converting" of wood, by which, we suppose, of manure to poor land at the time of planting, and the he means the converting it into cash. Well, this Mr cleaning of the land for a few years, can have any injurious Farrow tells a strange story of two oak trees, that grew effect on the quality of the wood, when it has attained its in the same field, the same soil, and the same climate. full growth ?" Now, this has as much to do with the ob- | The first tree (No. 1), as it appears, had no aid but what ject of the six propositions, as if he had quoted the first was furnished by the soil itself, which was “good, with proposition in Euclid. Respecting both divisions of the a bluish clay bottom;" whereas the other (No. 2) grew query, as put in the abstract, no one of the least know near the “rack-yard of the farm," and close to a ditch or ledge of wood would ever hesitate to answer in the nega drain, which conducted the moisture from the yard, and tive; and such an answer, so far from refuting, would in fact the roots appear to have extended to the yard it. rather strengthen the conclusions come to by Sir Henry self. Both, as Mr Farrow adds, grew well, but the one Steuart.
near the drain by far the more rapidly of the two; and Of the eighteen referees to whom Mr Withers applies, it was the current opinion about the place, that they had two are men of real science;-)st, The Editor of the been planted about the saine period. On cutting down Domestic Gardener's Manual; and 2d, Mr G. W. John the trees and weighing the wood, No. 2 was found to be son, the well-known writer on Horticultural Chemistry. 14 lbs. in 10 lbs. the heavier. Specimens of both wero To these may justly be added a very sensible landowner tried by Professor Barlow, as above, when No, I was (No. 2), whose name is not given, but whose judicious fractured by a weight of 835 lbs. superinduced upon it, opinions we formerly met with, in the “ Letter to Sir but No. 2 required 972 lbs. to fracture it. These facts, in Walter Scott.” All these, as well as the referees Nos. 1, the way they are stated, we cannot be brought to believe, 7, 10, 13, and 16, unwittingly confirm, instead of con- as Mr Farrow, a very ignorant individual, is the only troverting, the propositions. And we find that there were evidence brought forward to support them. We take several others, whose answers were so hostile to Mr Wi-them, as we should take the supposed facts and circumthers's opinions, that he does not publish them at all. stances of a well-authenticated ghost story, and for this • Calling in some corroborative circumstances to his aid, simple reason, that they contradict the laws of Nature, Mr Withers mentions (at page 115) that he got, from and the general results of experience; and, for the same Mr Boorne of Erpingham, (another timber-merchant,) reason, we reject any inference that can be drawn from two specimens of oak-wood, the one taken from a fast, the them. other from a slow growing tree. The former, as Mr Last of all, comes Mr Withers's grand and sweeping Boorne describes it, was raised in “ a very strong, good conclusion, which at once announces his victory, and sums soil,” the latter on “a light soil, with a gravelly bottom;" up his argument. “ These experiments,” says he, “throw and both specimens were forwarded, by Mr Withers, to new light upon the subject, and lead to the most importProfessor Barlow, of the Royal Academy at Woolwich, ant conclusions. They prove, not only that fast-growing oak in order that he might try their respective strengths. timber is superior in quality to that of slower growth, but This, as we conceive it, was equivalent to saying to the that by the constant application of manure to the roots of learned Professor,-“ Here is a specimen of the very best trees, planted even in a good soil, nearly double the quanoak that can be found, and here is also a specimen of the tity of timber may be obtained in the same period, while very worst ; pray, which is the stronger of the two, as veri- its strength, instead of being diminished, will be thereby infied by experiment?” Had Professor Barlow been at all creased.” We certainly never thought that Mr Withers acquainted with arboriculture which does not seem to be had much practical skill, even in the mechanical part of the case-he would have been much amused with the ap- planting; we never believed that he possessed any smatpeal thus made to him, and of which the consequences tering of science, beyond what he had picked up from may be easily conjectured. The two specimens of time reading the Planter's Guide ;-but little as that is, we ber were squared down to pieces of equal sizes, when the really think he might have seen to what consequences all first mentioned was broken with a weight of 999lbs., and this nonsense tended, even could country gentlemen be the last with one of only 677lbs., respectively laid upon them. brought to swallow it. In the first place, it would go Now, it is a fact well known to every planter of expe- near to destroy our belief in what is denominated “phyrience, although, from the folly of this proceeding, it does tological affinity” in woody plants, than which no arborinot seem to be known to Mr Withers, that all woody cultural fact is better ascertained, or more generally creplants have their peculiar and favourite soils, on which dited. And, in the second place, it would give to garthey will grow luxuriantly; and there are many trees deners this new and curious piece of information; that,