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WINGS OF WIRE.

IN an age of express trains, painless operations,
crystal palace, revolutions and republics,
Mormons and Puseyites, and a hundred
curiosities, such as our grandfathers and
grandmothers never dreamt about, there is
yet little difficulty in saying which of all
our modern wonders is really the most
wonderful. In our last days, we have one
thing, above all others, the fastest ; in our
generation of marvels, we have one thing of
all others the most marvellous. We hear of
it in conversation; we see it paraded in
newspapers; we are reminded of it in our
railway travels, until its very familiarity half
blinds us to its merits. Yet, among all the
useful things which human ingenuity has of
late completed, it would not be difficult to
show that the Electric Telegraph is one of the
most useful. The new Dorado itself, with its
plethora of yellow wealth, judged by the
standard of what great services may come of
it, cannot be more valuable than the strange
machine that enables one side of a country to
speak with another, regardless of the
intervening hundreds of miles of hills, streams, and
plains: solitudes and cities.

The old heroes of the race-coursethe fleet
footed descendants of Arabian deserts, bred
and nurtured in England to a speed that outdid
all previous rapidities of pacehave been
outdone. Flying Childers is no longer a
bye-word for swiftness; and Eclipse, with his race
of a mile a minute is left far, far behind.
Horse-flesh, in its finest forms, may henceforth
aid our sports, grace our vehicles, give
vitality to our green pastures, but may no
longer typify haste. We have caught, and can
control, another steed. We have bitted and
bridled, and mounted and broken in, another
wonder, which for ages sported, in elemental
freedom, round about us; which, from the
creation of the world, was more free than
the wild-horse, or any other thing,
trammelled by mortal elements, except the human
thought.

This was long work. Watching, deep study,
thousands of experiments, suggestions, and
reasonings; numberless plans and models
not of one man, or of two, but of thinkers
in many countries, in many generations
until, at last, some shrewd, practical men
thought out the final means of turning
to a purpose the accumulations of their
predecessors; and, lo, the hidden vagaries of
the element that claims close kindred with the
lightning, are reined up and made to do the
worldly work of men!

Straightway poles arise, and wires run
along them from one end of England to
another. The wires are made of the metal
that the sister of the lightning loves best
to fly through, and where that wire would
touch the post supporting it, there is a little
tunnel of porcelain for it to pass. But, the
spirit (so let us call this principle which we
term electricity, or electro-magnetism) hates
the cold, half-vitrified burnt clay, and keeps,
therefore, faithfully to the wire, no matter
how long its course may be. One wire dipped
into the earth, and starting from some great,
central point, say London, with other wires
spreading from it, may run in all directions,
as the nerves of the human body run from
the brain all over the frame. As the will
runs through the nerves, so this strange
spirit runs through the wires, until those
wires stay at any point, no matter whether
Birmingham, or Dover, or Plymouth. At
that point, the wire extends down into the
earth, conveying into it this subtle messenger;
which, quick as human thought, has made a
circuit, by darting through the earth to join
the tip of the wire, whence it started in
London. And so the race goes on with
almost inconceiveable swiftnessso swift,
indeed, as altogether to outdo even delicate
Ariel, the tricksy spirit who could
"put a girdle round about the earth in
forty minutes." If the wires went half
across the globe, our Spirit of Electro-
Magnetism would, it is calculated, fill the
wires with itself, and make the circuit
complete, through the intervening earth, eight
times in a second! And this race goes on,
imperceptibly, silently, incessantly, from end
to end of any line, whilst the wires are kept
from contact with anything the Spirit has
a sympathy for. This is the condition of
an electric telegraph whilst at rest. Round
and round the ringhalf isolated wire, half
earthgoes the current. But, break the
circuit,—divide the wire,—and, if there be against
the gap a poised needle of magnetised iron
like the needle of a compass for instance

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