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COMETS MAY BLAZE UNSEEN, AND WORLDS DECAY,
Non Quis ? Sed Quid?
E. J. HALE & SON, 16 MURRAY STREET.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by
E. J. HALE & SON, in the Clerk's Office of the United States District Court for the Southern
District of New York,
This COMET, like all others, has truly unveiled itself, without any premonition of its coming. The author, long restrained of his liberty by a malarious foe, to relieve the tedious hours of his monotonous captivity, by way of pastime, concluded to write an Essay. With material all arranged, he indifferently seeks a subject, when the Comet suddenly flits across the mental view, and thereby secures the page. Thought following thought, and fact added to fact, rendered the pursuit deeply interesting, and enticed the writer far beyond his original purpose; for his pastime grew into a labor, and his Essay became a book. Having no theory to control him, but passively and progressively following whithersoever sound reason, philosophy and revelation should lead, his speculations attained a vista so unique and unfamiliar in character, yet so gravely momentous, and withal so palpably just and true, that in selfishly withholding it from others equally interested with himself, he feels that no amount of diffidence or distrust will justify him. Hence, undesignedly, the Es
ist becomes an author. The reader, however, in taking the book, must receive it with its many deficiencies. Begun simply as a recreation, it has been continued in a revulsive atmosphere of circumambient powders and potions,
sinapisms and lotions, and only in its pharmaceutical agencies distantly resembling Helicon. The several chapters, and even parts of the same chapter, have been disjointedly composed, with intervals of varying lengths, and, consequently, those happy unities of thought, style, temper and taste, which stern criticism demands, will often be wanting. But the book is not offered as a tribute to the Muses, nor as meriting their approbation; but is tendered to rational humanity, solely for the matter which it contains, and that, properly appreciated, it is hoped, will make ample amends for all other insufficiencies.
Covering, as it does, all that portion of Eternity known as Time, its narrow limits necessarily preclude a full and thorough discussion of the many subjects it treats upon; and it can only be accepted as a simple syllabus of suggestions, which others, more proficient and better prepared, may readily extend and finish. Many of the chapters would be expanded into a volume, and some of them into many volumes, were a full and complete exposition and demonstration of their several topics attempted. This course, however, would defeat its own purpose; and a mere synopsis, to awaken a train of thought in the right direction, and invite each reader to supply from his own store of knowledge and experience, accessory facts and proofs, will certainly accomplish more, by receiving the heartiest welcome. In recasting the work, the writer's purpose has been to produce, out of an abundant mass of material, an humble and unpretending manual, adapted to general circulation, and which all may read and understand. To this end no pains have been spared, and all mathemati
cal illustrations and others of an abstruse and generally repulsive character, of which many parts of the book are eminently susceptible, have been studiously withheld. Believing that, although greatly condensed, the matter is within the grasp of the plainest minds, it is requested and suggested by the writer, that none shall feel dismayed, even if at the outset any portion of the subject may appear distasteful or unfamiliar; for a clear comprehension of the whole will vividly unfold very many important and interesting truths, well worth the pains bestowed upon their attainment...
It should be remembered that the author is not to be numbered with the theorists. He propounds no theory, he offers no hypothesis. He but unfolds the most ancient roll of time, and derives therefrom by careful analysis, a physical view of the earth and earthly things as they at first existed, together with a lucid account of their subsequent subversion. This view, although difficult to realize from its extreme dissimilitude to things at present familiar, is "compassed with so great a cloud of witnesses," that it must take rank with “the things that cannot be shaken.” A remarkable combination of concurring proofs, found in the ancient roll itself, is referred to in the first division of the Book. The second part unfolds how thoroughly the broad expanse of naturo confirms it: and the third part, in its limited citations, pointedly suggests that it is most amply recognized throughout the Scriptures. Nothing is based upon conjecture; but stern and stubborn physical facts, drawn from the venerable page of reliable and selfsustaining history, supported by science, philosophy