Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/666

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
644
SPERMACETI—SPEUSIPPUS

On the eve of the struggle with Napoleon, Alexander, conscious of his unpopularity, conceived the idea of making Speranski his scape-goat, and so conciliating that Old Russian sentiment which would be the strongest support of the autocratic tsar against revolutionary France. Speranski's own indiscretions gave the final impulse. He was surrounded with spies who reported, none too accurately, the minister's somewhat sharp criticisms of the emperor's acts; he had even had the supreme presumption to advise Alexander not to take the chief command in the coming campaign. A number of persons in the entourage of the emperor, including the grand-duchess Catherine, Katamzin, Rostopchin and the Swedish general Baron Armfield, intrigued to involve him in a charge of treason.[1] Alexander did not credit the charge, but he made Speranski responsible for the unpopularity incurred by himself in consequence of the hated reforms and the still more hated French policy, and on the 17th-29th of March 1812 dismissed him from office. Reinstated in the public service in 1816, he was appointed governor-general of Siberia, for which he drew up a new scheme of government, and in 1821 entered the council of state. Under Nicholas I., he was engaged in the codification of the Russian law (published in 1830 in 45 vols.), on which he also wrote some important commentaries.

See the biography (in Russian) by M. Korff (St Petersburg, 1861). On his public life and constitutional reforms see Theodor Schiemann, Geschichte Russlands unter Kaiser Nikolaus I., Bd. i. Kaiser Alexander I. p. 75 seq. (Berlin, 1904); Pierre Chasles, Le Parlement russe p. 19 seq. (Paris, 1910), and the works of V. Vagin (St Petersburg, 1872 and Moscow, 1905). Count Nesselrode's letters to Speranski and many references are published in vol. iii. of the Lettres et papiers du comte de Nesselrode.

SPERMACETI (from Lat. sperma, seed, and cetus, a whale), a wax found in the head cavities and blubber of the sperm-whale (Physeter macrocephalus), where it is dissolved in the sperm oil while the creature is living; it also occurs in other Cetacea (see Whale Oils). At a temperature of about 6° C. the solid matter separates in a crystalline condition, and when purified by pressure and treatment with weak solution of caustic alkali it forms brilliant white crystalline scales or plates, hard, but unctuous to the touch, and destitute of taste or smell. It is quite insoluble in water, very slightly affected by boiling alcohol, but easily dissolved in ether, chloroform, and carbon bisulphide. Spermaceti consists principally of cetin or cetyl palmitate, C15H31CO2C16H33. The substance is used in making candles of standard photometric value, in the dressing of fabrics, and in medicine and surgery, especially in cerates, bougies, ointments, and in cosmetic preparations.

SPERM-WHALE, or Cachalot (Physeter macrocephalus), the largest representative of the toothed whales, its length and bulk being about equal to, or somewhat exceeding those of the Arctic right-whale, from which, however, it is very different in appearance and structure. The head is about one-third of the length of the body, very massive, high and truncated in front; and owing its size and form mainly to the accumulation of a peculiarly modified form of fatty tissue in the large hollow on the upper surface of the skull. The oil contained in cells in this cavity, when refined, yields spermaceti, and the thick covering of blubber, which everywhere envelopes the body, produces the valuable sperm-oil of commerce. The single blowhole is a longitudinal slit, placed at the upper and anterior extremity of the head to the left side of the middle line. The opening of the mouth is on the under side of the head, considerably behind the end of the snout. The lower jaw is extremely narrow, and has on each side from twenty to twenty-five stout conical teeth, which furnish ivory of good quality, though not in sufficient bulk for most of the purposes for which that article is required. The upper teeth are rudimentary and buried in the gum. The flipper is short, broad, and truncated, and the dorsal fin a mere low protuberance. The general colour of the surface is black above and grey below, the colours gradually shading into each other. The sperm-whale is one of the most widely distributed of animals, being met with, usually in herds or “schools,” in almost all tropical and subtropical seas, and occasionally visiting the northern seas, a number having been killed around the Shetlands a few years ago. The food of sperm-whales consists mainly of squid and cuttlefish, but also comprises fish of considerable size. The substance called “ambergris,” formerly used in medicine and now in perfumery, is a concretion formed in the intestine of this whale, and found floating on the surface of the sea. Its genuineness is proved by the presence of the horny beaks of the cuttles on which the whale feeds. The one representative of the genus Cogia is called the lesser or pigmy sperm whale, being only from 9 ft. to 13 ft. long.

EB1911 Sperm-Whale.jpg

The Sperm-Whale (Physeter macrocephalus).


SPES, in Roman mythology, the personification of Hope. Originally a nature goddess (like Venus the garden goddess, with whom she was sometimes identified), she represented at first the hope of fruitful gardens and fields, then of abundant offspring, and lastly of prosperity to come and good fortune in general, being hence invoked on birthdays and at weddings. Of her numerous temples at Rome, the most ancient was appropriately in the forum olitorium (vegetable market), built during the first Punic war, and since that time twice burnt down and restored. The day of its dedication (August 1) corresponded with the birthday of Claudius, which explains the frequent occurrence of Spes on the coins of that emperor. Spes is represented as a beautiful maiden in a long light robe, lifting up her skirt with her left hand, and carrying in her right a bud already closed or about to open. Sometimes she wears a garland of flowers on her head, ears of corn and poppy-heads in her hand, symbolical of a prosperous harvest. Like Fortune, with whom she is often coupled in inscriptions on Roman tombstones, she was also represented with the cornu copiae (horn of plenty).

See G. Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Römer (1902), according to whom Spes was originally not a garden goddess, but simply the divinity to whom one prayed for the fulfilment of one's desires.

SPESSART, a highland forest country of Germany, belonging mainly to the Bavarian province of Lower Franconia, but in the north to the Prussian province of Hesse Cassel, and it is bounded on the S. and W. by the Main, on the E. by the Sinn and on the N. by the Kinzig and Joss. The main ridge of the formation, consisting of gneiss, granite and red sandstone, runs from a point opposite Miltenberg, in a north-westerly direction to the source of the Kinzig near Schlüchtern—a distance of 45 m.—and attains its highest elevation in the Geiersberg (1919 ft.), which lies north of the Rohrbrunn pass, through which runs the main road from Aschaffenburg to Würzburg. The forest, with which it is densely covered, consists of oak, beech, ash and fir, and the scenery, especially on the main side, between Gemünden and Lohr, is impressive. The climate is inclement in winter and oppressively hot in midsummer. The inhabitants are engaged chiefly in woodcutting, raft-making and quarrying, and most of the timber is floated down to Holland. Cobalt, silver, lead and copper are also worked, and the southern and western slopes yield wine of good quality. This beautiful tract of country until recent years was comparatively little known to the tourist, but a club (Spessart Klub) through the establishment of finger-posts and the issue of maps, has indicated the more interesting tours to be followed.

See Bücking, Der nordwestliche Spessart, geologisch aufgenommen (Berlin, 1893); Schober, Führer durch den Spessart (Aschaffenburg, 1904); Wolff, Der Spessart, sein Wirtschaftsleben (ibid., 1905).

SPEUSIPPUS (4th century B.C.), Greek philosopher, son of Eurymedon and Potone, sister of Plato, is supposed to have been born about 407 B.C. He was bred in the school of Isocrates;

  1. See Schiemann, op. cit., i. 81.