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CHAPTER III.

THREE GREAT POTTERS—PALISSY, BÖTTGHER, WEDGWOOD.


"Patience is the finest and worthiest part of fortitude, and the rarest too... Patience lies at the root of all pleasures, as well as of all powers. Hope herself ceases to be happiness when Impatience companions her."—John Ruskin.

"II y a vingt et cinq ans passez qu'il ne me fur monstré une coupe de terse, tournée et esmaillée dune Celle beauté que . . . dèslors, sans avoir esgard clue je n'avois nulle connoissance des terres argileuses, je me mis a chercher les émaux, comme on homme qui taste en ténèbres."—Bernard Palissy.


IT so happens that the history of Pottery furnishes some of the most remarkable instances of patient perseverance to be found in the whole range of biography.  Of these we select three of the most striking, as exhibited in the lives of Bernard Palissy, the Frenchman; Johann Friedrich Böttgher, the German; and Josiah Wedgwood, the Englishman.

    Though the art of making common vessels of clay was known to most of the ancient nations, that of manufacturing enamelled earthenware was much less common.  It was, however, practised by the ancient Etruscans, specimens of whose ware are still to be found in antiquarian collections.  But it became a lost art, and was only recovered at a comparatively recent date.  The Etruscan ware was very valuable in ancient times, a vase being worth its weight in gold in the time of Augustus.  The Moors seem to have preserved amongst them a knowledge of the art, which they were found practising in the island of Majorca when it was taken by the Pisans in 1115.  Among the spoil carried away were many plates of Moorish earthenware, which, in token of triumph, were embedded in the walls of several of the ancient churches of Pisa, where they are to be seen to this day.  About two centuries later the Italians began to make an imitation enamelled ware, which they named Majolica, after the Moorish place of manufacture.

    The reviver or re-discoverer of the art of enamelling in Italy was Luca della Robbia, a Florentine sculptor.  Vasari describes him as a man of indefatigable perseverance, working with his chisel all day and practising drawing during the greater part of the night.  He pursued the latter art with so much assiduity, that when working late, to prevent his feet from freezing with the cold, he was accustomed to provide himself with a basket of shavings, in which he placed them to keep himself warm and enable him to proceed with his drawings.  "Nor," says Vasari, "am I in the least astonished at this, since no man ever becomes distinguished in any art whatsoever who does not early begin to acquire the power of supporting heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and other discomforts; whereas those persons deceive themselves altogether who suppose that when taking their ease and surrounded by all the enjoyments of the world they may still attain to honourable distinction,—for it is not by sleeping, but by waking, watching, and labouring continually, that proficiency is attained and reputation acquired."

    But Luca, notwithstanding all his application and industry, did not succeed in earning enough money by sculpture to enable him to live by the art, and the idea occurred to him that he might nevertheless be able to pursue his modelling in some material more facile and less dear than marble.  Hence it was that he began to make his models in clay, and to endeavour by experiment so to coat and bake the clay as to render those models durable.  After many trials he at length discovered a method of covering the clay with a material, which, when exposed to the intense heat of a furnace became converted into an almost imperishable enamel.  He afterwards made the further discovery of a method of imparting colour to the enamel, thus greatly adding to its beauty.

    The fame of Luca's work extended throughout Europe, and specimens of his art became widely diffused.  Many of them were sent into France and Spain, where they were greatly prized.  At that time coarse brown jars and pipkins were almost the only articles of earthenware produced in France; and this continued to be the case, with comparatively small improvement, until the time of Palissy—a man who toiled and fought against stupendous difficulties with a heroism that sheds a glow almost of romance over the events of his chequered life.

    Bernard Palissy is supposed to have been born in the south of France, in the diocese of Agen, about the year 1510.  His father was probably a worker in glass, to which trade Bernard was brought up. His parents were poor people—too poor to give him the benefit of any school education.  "I had no other books," said he afterwards, "than heaven and earth, which are open to all."  He learnt, however, the art of glass-painting, to which he added that of drawing, and afterwards reading and writing.

    When about eighteen years old, the glass trade becoming decayed, Palissy left his father's house, with his wallet on his back, and went out into the world to search whether there was any place in it for him.  He first travelled towards Gascony, working at his trade where he could find employment, and occasionally occupying part of his time in land-measuring.  Then he travelled northwards, sojourning for various periods at different places in France, Flanders, and Lower Germany.

    Thus Palissy occupied about ten more years of his life, after which he married, and ceased from his wanderings, settling down to practise glass-painting and land-measuring at the small town of Saintes, in the Lower Charente.  There children were born to him; and not only his responsibilities but his expenses increased, while, do what he could, his earnings remained too small for his needs.  It was therefore necessary for him to bestir himself.  Probably he felt capable of better things than drudging in an employment so precarious as glass-painting; and hence he was induced to turn his attention to the kindred art of painting and enamelling earthenware.  Yet on this subject he was wholly ignorant; for he had never seen earth baked before he began his operations.  He had therefore everything to learn by himself, without any helper.  But he was full of hope, eager to learn, of unbounded perseverance and inexhaustible patience.

    It was the sight of an elegant cup of Italian manufacture—most probably one of Luca della Robbia's make—which first set Palissy a-thinking about the new art.  A circumstance so apparently insignificant would have produced no effect upon an ordinary mind, or even upon Palissy himself at an ordinary time; but occurring as it did when he was meditating a change of calling, he at once became inflamed with the desire of imitating it.  The sight of this cup disturbed his whole existence; and the determination to discover the enamel with which it was glazed thenceforward possessed him like a passion.  Had he been a single man he might have travelled into Italy in search of the secret; but he was bound to his wife and his children, and could not leave them; so he remained by their side groping in the dark in the hope of finding out the process of making and enamelling earthenware.

    At first he could merely guess the materials of which the enamel was composed; and he proceeded to try all manner of experiments to ascertain what they really were.  He pounded all the substances which he supposed were likely to produce it.  Then he bought common earthen pots, broke them into pieces, and, spreading his compounds over them, subjected them to the heat of a furnace which he erected for the purpose of baking them.  His experiments failed; and the results were broken pots and a waste of fuel, drugs, time, and labour.  Women do not readily sympathise with experiments whose only tangible effect is to dissipate the means of buying clothes and food for their children; and Palissy's wife, however dutiful in other respects, could not be reconciled to the purchase of more earthen pots, which seemed to her to be bought only to be broken.  Yet she must needs submit; for Palissy had become thoroughly possessed by the determination to master the secret of the enamel, and would not leave it alone.

    For many successive months and years Palissy pursued his experiments.  The first furnace having proved a failure, he proceeded to erect another out of doors.  There he burnt more wood, spoiled more drugs and pots, and lost more time, until poverty stared him and his family in the face.  "Thus," said he, "I fooled away several years, with sorrow and sighs, because I could not at all arrive at my intention."  In the intervals of his experiments he occasionally worked at his former callings, painting on glass, drawing portraits, and measuring land; but his earnings from these sources were very small.  At length he was no longer able to carry on his experiments in his own furnace because of the heavy cost of fuel; but he bought more potsherds, broke them up as before into three or four hundred pieces, and, covering them with chemicals, carried them to a tile-work a league and a half distant from Saintes, there to be baked in an ordinary furnace.  After the operation he went to see the pieces taken out; and, to his dismay, the whole of the experiments were failures.  But though disappointed, he was not yet defeated; for he determined on the very spot to "begin afresh."

    His business as a land-measurer called him away for a brief season from the pursuit of his experiments.  In conformity with an edict of the State, it became necessary to survey the salt-marshes in the neighbourhood of Saintes for the purpose of levying the land-tax.  Palissy was employed to make this survey, and prepare the requisite map.  The work occupied him some time, and he was doubtless well paid for it; but no sooner was it completed than he proceeded, with redoubled zeal, to follow up his old investigations "in the track of the enamels."  He began by breaking three dozen new earthen pots, the pieces of which he covered with different materials which he had compounded, and then took them to a neighbouring glass-furnace to be baked.  The results gave him a glimmer of hope.  The greater heat of the glass-furnace had melted some of the compounds; but though Palissy searched diligently for the white enamel he could find none.

    For two more years he went on experimenting without any satisfactory result, until the proceeds of his survey of the salt-marshes having become nearly spent, he was reduced to poverty again.  But he resolved to make a last great effort; and he began by breaking more pots than ever.  More than three hundred pieces of pottery covered with his compounds were sent to the glass-furnace; and thither he himself went to watch the results of the baking.  Four hours passed, during which he watched; and then the furnace was opened.  The material on one only of the three hundred pieces of potsherd had melted, and it was taken out to cool.  As it hardened, it grew white—white and polished!  The piece of potsherd was covered with white enamel, described by Palissy as "singularly beautiful!"  And beautiful it must no doubt have been in his eyes after all his weary waiting.  He ran home with it to his wife, feeling himself, as he expressed it, quite a new creature.  But the prize was not yet won—far from it.  The partial success of this intended last effort merely had the effect of luring him on to a succession of further experiments and failures.

    In order that he might complete the invention, which he now believed to be at hand, he resolved to build for himself a glass-furnace near his dwelling, where he might carry on his operations in secret.  He proceeded to build the furnace with his own hands, carrying the bricks from the brick-field upon his back.  He was bricklayer, labourer, and all.  From seven to eight more months passed.  At last the furnace was built and ready for use.  Palissy had in the mean time fashioned a number of vessels of clay in readiness for the laying on of the enamel.  After being subjected to a preliminary process of baking, they were covered with the enamel compound, and again placed in the furnace for the grand crucial experiment.  Although his means were nearly exhausted, Palissy had been for some time accumulating a great store of fuel for the final effort; and he thought it was enough.  At last the fire was lit, and the operation proceeded.  All day he sat by the furnace, feeding it with fuel.  He sat there watching and feeding all through the long night.  But the enamel did not melt.  The sun rose upon his labours.  His wife brought him a portion of the scanty morning meal,—for he would not stir from the furnace, into which he continued from time to time to heave more fuel.  The second day passed, and still the enamel did not melt.  The sun set, and another night passed.  The pale, haggard, unshorn, baffled yet not beaten Palissy sat by his furnace eagerly looking for the melting of the enamel.  A third day and night passed—a fourth, a fifth, and even a sixth,—yes, for six long days and nights did the unconquerable Palissy watch and toil, fighting against hope; and still the enamel would not melt.

    It then occurred to him that there might be some defect in the materials for the enamel—perhaps something wanting in the flux; so he set to work to pound and compound fresh materials for a new experiment.  Thus two or three more weeks passed.  But how to buy more pots?—for those which he had made with his own hands for the purposes of the first experiment were by long baking irretrievably spoilt for the purposes of a second.  His money was now all spent; but he could borrow.  His character was still good, though his wife and the neighbours thought him foolishly wasting his means in futile experiments.  Nevertheless he succeeded.  He borrowed sufficient from a friend to enable him to buy more fuel and more pots, and he was again ready for a further experiment.  The pots were covered with the new compound, placed in the furnace, and the fire was again lit.

    It was the last and most desperate experiment of the whole.  The fire blazed up; the heat became intense; but still the enamel did not melt.  The fuel began to run short!  How to keep up the fire?  There were the garden palings: these would burn.  They must be sacrificed rather than that the great experiment should fail.  The garden palings were pulled up and cast into the furnace.  They were burnt in vain!  The enamel had not yet melted.  Ten minutes more heat might do it.  Fuel must be had at whatever cost.  There remained the household furniture and shelving.  A crashing noise was heard in the house; and amidst the screams of his wife and children, who now feared Palissy's reason was giving way, the tables were seized, broken up, and heaved into the furnace.  The enamel had not melted yet!  There remained the shelving.  Another noise of the wrenching of timber was heard within the house; and the shelves were torn down and hurled after the furniture into the fire.  Wife and children then rushed from the house, and went frantically through the town, calling out that poor Palissy had gone mad, and was breaking up his very furniture for firewood! [p.74]

    For an entire month his shirt had not been off his back, and he was utterly worn out—wasted with toil, anxiety, watching, and want of food.  He was in debt, and seemed on the verge of ruin.  But he had at length mastered the secret; for the last great burst of heat had melted the enamel.  The common brown household jars, when taken out of the furnace after it had become cool, were found covered with a white glaze!  For this he could endure reproach, contumely, and scorn, and wait patiently for the opportunity of putting his discovery into practice as better days came round.

    Palissy next hired a potter to make some earthen vessels after designs which he furnished; while he himself proceeded to model some medallions in clay for the purpose of enamelling them.  But how to maintain himself and his family until the wares were made and ready for sale?  Fortunately there remained one man in Saintes who still believed in the integrity, if not in the judgment, of Palissy—an innkeeper, who agreed to feed and lodge him for six months, while he went on with his manufacture.  As for the working potter whom he had hired, Palissy soon found that he could not pay him the stipulated wages.  Having already stripped his dwelling, he could but strip himself; and he accordingly parted with some of his clothes to the potter, in part payment of the wages which he owed him.

    Palissy next erected an improved furnace, but he was so unfortunate as to build part of the inside with flints.  When it was heated, these flints cracked and burst, and the spiculæ were scattered over the pieces of pottery, sticking to them.  Though the enamel came out right, the work was irretrievably spoilt, and thus six more months' labour was lost.  Persons were found willing to buy the articles at a low price, notwithstanding the injury they had sustained; but Palissy would not sell them, considering that to have done so would be to "decry and abase his honour;" and so he broke in pieces the entire batch.  "Nevertheless," says he, "hope continued to inspire me, and I held on manfully; sometimes, when visitors called, I entertained them with pleasantry, while I was really sad at heart. . . . Worst of all the sufferings I had to endure, were the mockeries and persecutions of those of my own household, who were so unreasonable as to expect me to execute work without the means of doing so.  For years my furnaces were without any covering or protection, and while attending them I have been for nights at the mercy of the wind and the rain, without help or consolation, save it might be the wailing of cats on the side dogs and the howling of dogs on the other.  Sometimes the tempest would beat so furiously against the furnaces that I was compelled to leave them and seek shelter within doors.  Drenched by rain, and in no better plight than if I had been dragged through mire, I have gone to lie down at midnight or at daybreak, stumbling into the house without a light, and reeling from one side to another as if I had been drunken, but really weary with watching and filled with sorrow at the loss of my labour after such long toiling.  But alas! my home proved no refuge; for, drenched and besmeared as I was, I found in my chamber a second persecution worse than the first, which makes me even now marvel that I was not utterly consumed by my many sorrows."

    At this stage of his affairs, Palissy became melancholy and almost hopeless, and seems to have all but broken down.  He wandered gloomily about the fields near Saintes, his clothes hanging in tatters, and himself worn to a skeleton.  In a curious passage in his writings he describes how that the calves of his legs had disappeared and were no longer able with the help of garters to hold up his stockings, which fell about his heels when he walked. [p.77]  The family continued to reproach him for his recklessness, and his neighbours cried shame upon him for his obstinate folly.  So he returned for a time to his former calling; and after about a year's diligent labour, during which he earned bread for his household and somewhat recovered his character among his neighbours, he again resumed his darling enterprise.  But though he had already spent about ten years in the search for the enamel, it cost him nearly eight more years of experimental plodding before he perfected his invention.  He gradually learnt dexterity and certainty of result by experience, gathering practical knowledge out of many failures.  Every mishap was a fresh lesson to him, teaching him something new about the nature of enamels, the qualities of argillaceous earths, the tempering of clays, and the construction and management of furnaces.

    At last, after about sixteen years' labour, Palissy took heart and called himself Potter.  These sixteen years had been his term of apprenticeship to the art; during which he had wholly to teach himself, beginning at the very beginning.  He was now able to sell his wares and thereby maintain his family in comfort.  But he never rested satisfied with what he had accomplished.  He proceeded from one step of improvement to another; always aiming at the greatest perfection possible.  He studied natural objects for patterns, and with such success that the great Buffon spoke of him as "so great a naturalist as Nature only can produce."  His ornamental pieces are now regarded as rare gems in the cabinets of virtuosi, and sell at almost fabulous prices. [p.78]  The ornaments on them are for the most part accurate models from life, of wild animals, lizards, and plants, found in the fields about Saintes, and tastefully combined as ornaments into the texture of a plate or vase.  When Palissy had reached the height of his art he styled himself "Ouvrier de Terre et Inventeur des Rustics Figulines."

    We have not, however, come to an end of the sufferings of Palissy, respecting which a few words remain to be said.  Being a Protestant, at a time when religious persecution waxed hot in the south of France, and expressing his views without fear, he was regarded as a dangerous heretic.  His enemies having informed against him, his house at Saintes was entered by the officers of "justice," and his workshop was thrown open to the rabble, who entered and smashed his pottery, while he himself was hurried off by night and cast into a dungeon at Bordeaux, to wait his turn at the stake or the scaffold.  He was condemned to be burnt; but a powerful noble, the Constable de Montmorency, interposed to save his life—not because he had any special regard for Palissy or his religion, but because no other artist could be found capable of executing the enamelled pavement for his magnificent chateau then in course of erection at Ecouen, about four leagues from Paris.  By his influence an edict was issued appointing Palissy Inventor of Rustic Figulines to the King and to the Constable, which had the effect of immediately removing him from the jurisdiction of Bourdeaux.  He was accordingly liberated, and returned to his home at Saintes only to find it devastated and broken up.  His workshop was open to the sky, and his works lay in ruins.  Shaking the dust of Saintes from his feet he left the place never to return to it, and removed to Paris to carry on the works ordered of him by the Constable and the Queen Mother, being lodged in the Tuileries [p.79] while so occupied.

    Besides carrying on the manufacture of pottery, with the aid of his two sons, Palissy, during the latter part of his life, wrote and published several books on the potter's art, with a view to the instruction of his countrymen, and in order that they might avoid the many mistakes which he himself had made.  He also wrote on agriculture, on fortification, and natural history, on which latter subject he even delivered lectures to a limited number of persons.  He waged war against astrology, alchemy, witchcraft, and like impostures.  This stirred up against him many enemies, who pointed the finger at him as a heretic, and he was again arrested for his religion and imprisoned in the Bastille.  He was now an old man of seventy-eight, trembling on the verge of the grave, but his spirit was as brave as ever.  He was threatened with death unless he recanted; but he was as obstinate in holding to his religion as he had been in hunting out the secret of the enamel.  The king, Henry III., even went to see him in prison to induce him to abjure his faith.  "My good man," said the King, "you have now served my mother and myself for forty-five years.  We have put up with your adhering to your religion amidst fires and massacres: now I am so pressed by the Guise party as well as by my own people, that I am constrained to leave you in the hands of your enemies, and to-morrow you will be burnt unless you become converted."  "Sire," answered the unconquerable old man, "I am ready to give my life for the glory of God.  You have said many times that you have pity on me; and now I have pity on you, who have pronounced the words I am constrained!  It is not spoken like a king, sire; it is what you, and those who constrain you, the Guisards and all your people, can never effect upon me, for I know how to die." [p.80-1]  Palissy did indeed die shortly after, a martyr, though not at the stake.  He died in the Bastille, after enduring about a year's imprisonment,—there peacefully terminating a life distinguished for heroic labour, extraordinary endurance, inflexible rectitude, and the exhibition of many rare and noble virtues. [p.80-2]

    The life of John Frederick Böttgher, the inventor of hard porcelain, presents a remarkable contrast to that of Palissy; though it also contains many points of singular and almost romantic interest.  Böttgher was born at Schleiz, in the Voightland, in 1685, and at twelve years of age was placed apprentice with an apothecary at Berlin.  He seems to have been early fascinated by chemistry, and occupied most of his leisure in making experiments.  These for the most part tended in one direction—the art of converting common metals into gold.  At the end of several years, Böttgher pretended to have discovered the universal solvent of the alchemists, and professed that he had made gold by its means.  He exhibited its powers before his master, the apothecary Zörn, and by some trick or other succeeded in making him and several other witnesses believe that he had actually converted copper into gold.

    The news spread abroad that the apothecary's apprentice had discovered the grand secret, and crowds collected about the shop to get a sight of the wonderful young "gold-cook."  The king himself expressed a wish to see and converse with him, and when Frederick I. was presented with a piece of the gold pretended to have been converted from copper, he was so dazzled with the prospect of securing an infinite quantity of it—Prussia being then in great straits for money—that he determined to secure Böttgher and employ him to make gold for him within the strong fortress of Spandau.  But the young apothecary, suspecting the king's intention, and probably fearing detection, at once resolved on flight, and he succeeded in getting across the frontier into Saxony.

    A reward of a thousand thalers was offered for Böttgher's apprehension, but in vain.  He arrived at Wittenberg, and appealed for protection to the Elector of Saxony, Frederick Augustus I. (King of Poland), surnamed "the Strong."  Frederick was himself very much in want of money at the time, and he was overjoyed at the prospect of obtaining gold in any quantity by the aid of the young alchemist.  Böttgher was accordingly conveyed in secret to Dresden, accompanied by a royal escort.  He had scarcely left Wittenberg when a battalion of Prussian grenadiers appeared before the gates demanding the gold-maker's extradition.  But it was too late: Böttgher had already arrived in Dresden, where he was lodged in the Golden House, and treated with every consideration, though strictly watched and kept under guard

    The Elector, however, must needs leave him there for a time, having to depart forthwith to Poland, then almost in a state of anarchy.  But, impatient for gold, he wrote Böttgher from Warsaw, urging him to communicate the secret, so that he himself might practise the art of commutation.  The young "gold-cook," thus pressed, forwarded to Frederick a small phial containing "a reddish fluid," which, it was asserted, changed all metals, when in a molten state, into gold.  This important phial was taken in charge by the Prince Furst von Fürstenburg, who, accompanied by a regiment of Guards, hurried with it to Warsaw.  Arrived there, it was determined to make immediate trial of the process.  The King and the Prince locked themselves up in a secret chamber of the palace, girt themselves about with leather aprons, and like true "gold-cooks" set to work melting copper in a crucible and afterwards applying to it the red fluid of Böttgher.  But the result was unsatisfactory; for notwithstanding all that they could do, the copper obstinately remained copper.  On referring to the alchemist's instructions, however, the King found that, to succeed with the process, it was necessary that the fluid should be used "in great purity of heart;" and as his Majesty was conscious of having spent the evening in very bad company he attributed the failure of the experiment to that cause.  A second trial was followed by no better results, and then the King became furious; for he had confessed and received absolution before beginning the second experiment.

    Frederick Augustus now resolved on forcing Böttgher to disclose the golden secret, as the only means of relief from his urgent pecuniary difficulties.  The alchemist, hearing of the royal intention, again determined to fly.  He succeeded in escaping his guard, and, after three days' travel, arrived at Ens in Austria, where he thought himself safe.  The agents of the Elector were, however, at his heels; they had tracked him to the "Golden Stag," which they surrounded, and seizing him in his bed, notwithstanding his resistance and appeals to the Austrian authorities for help, they carried him by force to Dresden.  From this time he was more strictly watched than ever, and he was shortly after transferred to the strong fortress of Köningstein.  It was communicated to him that the royal exchequer was completely empty, and that ten regiments of Poles in arrears of pay were waiting for his gold.  The King himself visited him, and told him in a severe tone that if he did not at once proceed to make gold, he would be hung! ("Thu mir zurecht, Böttgher, sonst lass ich dich hangen").

    Years passed, and still Böttgher made no gold; but he was not hung.  It was reserved for him to make a far more important discovery than the conversion of copper into gold, namely, the conversion of clay into porcelain.  Some rare specimens of this ware had been brought by the Portuguese from China, which were sold for more than their weight in gold.  Böttgher was first induced to turn his attention to the subject by Walter von Tschirnhaus, a maker of optical instruments, also an alchemist.  Tschirnhaus was a man of education and distinction, and was held in much esteem by Prince Fürstenburg as well as by the Elector.  He very sensibly said to Böttgher, still in fear of the gallows—"If you can't make gold, try and do something else; make porcelain."

    The alchemist acted on the hint, and began his experiments, working night and day.  He prosecuted his investigations for a long time with great assiduity, but without success.  At length some red clay, brought to him for the purpose of making his crucibles, set him on the right track.  He found that this clay, when submitted to a high temperature, became vitrified and retained its shape; and that its texture resembled that of porcelain, excepting in colour and opacity.  He had in fact accidentally discovered red porcelain; and he proceeded to manufacture it and sell it as porcelain.

    Böttgher was, however, well aware that the white colour was an essential property of true porcelain; and he therefore prosecuted his experiments in the hope of discovering the secret.  Several years thus passed, but without success; until again accident stood his friend, and helped him to a knowledge of the art of making white porcelain.  One day, in the year 1707, he found his perruque unusually heavy, and asked of his valet the reason.  The answer was, that it was owing to the powder with which the wig was dressed, which consisted of a kind of earth then much used for hair powder.  Böttgher's quick imagination immediately seized upon the idea.  This white earthy powder might possibly be the very earth of which he was in search—at all events the opportunity must not be let slip of ascertaining what it really was.  He was rewarded for his painstaking care and watchfulness; for he found, on experiment, that the principal ingredient of the hair-powder consisted of kaolin, the want of which had so long formed an insuperable difficulty in the way of his inquiries.

    The discovery, in Böttgher's intelligent hands, led to great results, and proved of far greater importance than the discovery of the philosopher's stone would have been.  In October, 1707, he presented his first piece of porcelain to the Elector, who was greatly pleased with it; and it was resolved that Böttgher should be furnished with the means necessary for perfecting his invention.  Having obtained a skilled workman from Delft, he began to turn porcelain with great success.  He now entirely abandoned alchemy for pottery, and inscribed over the door of his workshop this distich:—


"Es machte Gott, der grosse Schöpfer,
 Aus einem Goldmacher einen Töpfer." [p.84]


    Böttgher, however, was still under strict surveillance, for fear lest he should communicate his secret to others or escape the Elector's control.  The new workshops and furnaces which were erected for him, were guarded by troops night and day, and six superior officers were made responsible for the personal security of the potter.

    Böttgher's further experiments with his new furnaces proving very successful, and the porcelain which he manufactured being found to fetch large prices, it was next determined to establish a Royal Manufactory of porcelain.  The manufacture of delftware was known to have greatly enriched Holland.  Why should not the manufacture of porcelain equally enrich the Elector?  Accordingly, a decree went forth, dated the 23rd of January, 1710, for the establishment of "a large manufactory of porcelain" at the Albrechtsburg in Meissen.  In this decree, which was translated into Latin, French, and Dutch, and distributed by the Ambassadors of the Elector at all the European Courts, Frederick Augustus set forth that to promote the welfare of Saxony, which had suffered much through the Swedish invasion, he had "directed his attention to the subterranean treasures (unterirdischen Schätze)" of the country, and having employed some able persons in the investigation, they had succeeded in manufacturing "a sort of red vessels (eine Art rother Gefässe) far superior to the Indian terra sigillata;" [p.85] as also "coloured ware and plates (buntes Geschirr and Tafeln) which may be cut, ground, and polished, and are quite equal to Indian vessels," and finally that "specimens of white porcelain (Proben von weissem Porzellan)" had already been obtained, and it was hoped that this quality, too, would soon be manufactured in considerable quantities.  The royal decree concluded by inviting "foreign artists and handicraftmen" to come to Saxony and engage as assistants in the new factory, at high wages, and under the patronage of the King.  This royal edict probably gives the best account of the actual state of Böttgher's invention at the time.

    It has been stated in German publications that Böttgher, for the great services rendered by him to the Elector and to Saxony, was made Manager of the Royal Porcelain Works, and further promoted to the dignity of Baron.  Doubtless he deserved these honours; but his treatment was of an altogether different character, for it was shabby, cruel, and inhuman.  Two royal officials, named Matthieu and Nehmitz, were put over his head as directors of the factory, while he himself only held the position of foreman of potters, and at the same time was detained the King's prisoner.  During the erection of the factory at Meissen, while his assistance was still indispensable, he was conducted by soldiers to and from Dresden; and even after the-works were finished, he was locked up nightly in his room.  All this preyed upon his mind, and in repeated letters to the King he sought to obtain mitigation of his fate.  Some of these letters are very touching.  "I will devote my whole soul to the art of making porcelain," he writes on one occasion, "I will do more than any inventor ever did before; only give me liberty, liberty!"

    To these appeals, the King turned a deaf ear.  He was ready to spend money and grant favours; but liberty he would not give.  He regarded Böttgher as his slave.  In this position, the persecuted man kept on working for some time, till, at the end of a year or two, he grew negligent.  Disgusted with the world and with himself, he took to drinking.  Such is the force of example, that it no sooner became known that Böttgher had betaken himself to this vice, than the greater number of the workmen at the Meissen factory became drunkards too.  Quarrels and fightings without end were the consequence, so that the troops were frequently called upon to interfere and keep peace among the "Porzellanern," as they were nicknamed.  After a while, the whole of them, more than three hundred, were shut up in the Albrechtsburg, and treated as prisoners of state.

    Böttgher at last fell seriously ill, and in May, 1713, his dissolution was hourly expected.  The King, alarmed at losing so valuable a slave, now gave him permission to take carriage exercise under a guard; and, having somewhat recovered, he was allowed occasionally to go to Dresden.  In a letter written by the King in April, 1714, Böttgher was promised his full liberty; but the offer came too late.  Broken in body and mind, alternately working and drinking, though with occasional gleams of nobler intention, and suffering under constant ill-health, the result of his enforced confinement, Böttgher lingered on for a few years more until death freed him from his sufferings on the 13th March 1719, in the thirty-fifth year of his age.  He was buried at night—as if he had been a dog—in the Johannis Cemetery of Meissen.  Such was the treatment and such the unhappy end, of one of Saxony's greatest benefactors.

    The porcelain manufacture immediately opened up an important source of public revenue, and it became so productive to the Elector of Saxony, that his example was shortly after followed by most European monarchs.  Although soft porcelain had been made at St. Cloud fourteen years before Böttgher's discovery, the superiority of the hard porcelain soon became generally recognised.  Its manufacture was begun at Sevres in 1770, and it has since almost entirely superseded the softer material.  This is now one of the most thriving branches of French industry, of which the high quality of the articles produced is certainly indisputable.

 

JOSIAH WEDGEWOOD (1730-95): English potter.
Picture: Internet Text Archive.


    The career of Josiah Wedgwood, the English potter, was less chequered and more prosperous than that of either Palissy or Böttgher, and his lot was cast in happier times.  Down to the middle of last century England was behind most other nations of the first order in Europe in respect of skilled industry.  Although there were many potters in Staffordshire—and Wedgwood himself belonged to a numerous clan of potters of the same name—their productions were of the rudest kind, for the most part only plain brown ware, with the patterns scratched in while the clay was wet.  The principal supply of the better articles of earthenware came from Delft in Holland, and of drinking stone pots from Cologne.  Two foreign potters, the brothers Elers from Nuremberg, settled for a time in Staffordshire, and introduced an improved manufacture, but they shortly after removed to Chelsea, where they confined themselves to the manufacture of ornamental pieces.  No porcelain capable of resisting a scratch with a hard point had yet been made in England; and for a long time the "white ware" made in Staffordshire was not white, but of a dirty cream colour.  Such, in a few words, was the condition of the pottery manufacture when Josiah Wedgwood was born at Burslem in 1730.  By the time that he died, sixty-four years later, it had become completely changed.  By his energy, skill, and genius, he established the trade upon a new and solid foundation; and, in the words of his epitaph, "converted a rude and inconsiderable manufacture into an elegant art and an important branch of national commerce."

    Josiah Wedgwood was one of those indefatigable men who from time to time spring from the ranks of the common people, and by their energetic character not only practically educate the working population in habits of industry, but by the example of diligence and perseverance which they set before them, largely influence the public activity in all directions, and contribute in a great degree to form the national character.  He was, like Arkwright, the youngest of a family of thirteen children.  His grandfather and granduncle were both potters, as was also his father who died when he was a mere boy, leaving him a patrimony of twenty pounds.  He had learned to read and write at the village school; but on the death of his father he was taken from it and set to work as a "thrower" in a small pottery carried on by his elder brother.  There he began life, his working life, to use his own words, "at the lowest round of the ladder," when only eleven years old.  He was shortly after seized by an attack of virulent smallpox, from the effects of which he suffered during the rest of his life, for it was followed by a disease in the right knee, which recurred at frequent intervals, and was only got rid of by the amputation of the limb many years later.  Mr. Gladstone, in his eloquent Éloge on Wedgwood recently delivered at Burslem, well observed that the disease from which he suffered was not improbably the occasion of his subsequent excellence.  "It prevented him from growing up to be the active, vigorous English workman, possessed of all his limbs, and knowing right well the use of them; but it put him upon considering whether, as he could not be that, he might not be something else, and something greater.  It sent his mind inwards; it drove him to meditate upon the laws and secrets of his art.  The result was, that he arrived at a perception and a grasp of them which might, perhaps, have been envied, certainly have been owned, by an Athenian potter." [p.89]

    When he had completed his apprenticeship with his brother, Josiah joined partnership with another workman, and carried on a small business in making knife-hafts, boxes, and sundry articles for domestic use.  Another partnership followed, when he proceeded to make melon table plates, green pickle leaves, candlesticks, snuffboxes, and such like articles; but he made comparatively little progress until he began business on his own account at Burslem in the year 1759.  There he diligently pursued his calling, introducing new articles to the trade, and gradually extending his business.  What he chiefly aimed at was to manufacture cream-coloured ware of a better quality than was then produced in Staffordshire as regarded shape, colour, glaze, and durability.  To understand the subject thoroughly, he devoted his leisure to the study of chemistry; and he made numerous experiments on fluxes, glazes, and various sorts of clay.  Being a close inquirer and accurate observer, he noticed that a certain earth containing silica, which was black before calcination, became white after exposure to the heat of a furnace.  This fact, observed and pondered on, led to the idea of mixing silica with the red powder of the potteries, and to the discovery that the mixture becomes white when calcined.  He had but to cover this material with a vitrification of transparent glaze, to obtain one of the most important products of fictile art—that which, under the name of English earthenware, was to attain the greatest commercial value and become of the most extensive utility.

    Wedgwood was for some time much troubled by his furnaces, though nothing like to the same extent that Palissy was; and he overcame his difficulties in the same way—by repeated experiments and unfaltering perseverance.  His first attempts at making porcelain for table use was a succession of disastrous failures,—the labours of months being often destroyed in a day.  It was only after a long series of trials, in the course of which he lost time, money, and labour, that he arrived at the proper sort of glaze to be used, but he would not be denied, and at last he conquered success through patience.  The improvement of pottery became his passion, and was never lost sight of for a moment.  Even when he had mastered his difficulties, and become a prosperous man—manufacturing white stone ware and cream-coloured ware in large quantities for home and foreign use—he went forward perfecting his manufactures, until, his example extending in all directions, the action of the entire district was stimulated, and a great branch of British industry was eventually established on firm foundations.  He aimed throughout at the highest excellence, declaring his determination "to give over manufacturing any article, whatsoever it might be, rather than to degrade it."

    Wedgwood was cordially helped by many persons of rank and influence; for, working in the truest spirit, he readily commanded the help and encouragement of other true workers.  He made for Queen Charlotte the first royal table-service of English manufacture, of the kind afterwards called "Queen's-ware," and was appointed Royal Potter; a title which he prized more than if he had been made a baron.  Valuable sets of porcelain were entrusted to him for imitation, in which he succeeded to admiration.  Sir William Hamilton lent him specimens of ancient art from Herculaneum, of which he produced accurate and beautiful copies.  The Duchess of Portland outbid him for the Barberini Vase when that article was offered for sale.  He bid as high as seventeen hundred guineas for it: her grace secured it for eighteen hundred; but when she learnt Wedgwood's object she at once generously lent him the vase to copy.  He produced fifty copies at a cost of about £2,500, and his expenses were not covered by their sale; but he gained his object, which was to show that whatever had been done, that English skill and energy could and would accomplish.

 

The Portland (or "Barberini") Vase.  Picture: Wikipedia.


Portland Vase copy, about 1790, Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd.
Picture: Wikipedia. [p.91]


    Wedgwood called to his aid the crucible of the chemist, the knowledge of the antiquary, and the skill of the artist.  He found out Flaxman [p.92] when a youth, and while he liberally nurtured his genius drew from him a large number of beautiful designs for his pottery and porcelain; converting them by his manufacture into objects of taste and excellence, and thus making them instrumental in the diffusion of classical art amongst the people.  By careful experiment and study he was even enabled to rediscover the art of painting on porcelain or earthenware vases and similar articles—an art practised by the ancient Etruscans, but which had been lost since the time of Pliny.  He distinguished himself by his own contributions to science, and his name is still identified with the Pyrometer which he invented.  He was an indefatigable supporter of all measures of public utility; and the construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal, which completed the navigable communication between the eastern and western sides of the island, was mainly due to his public-spirited exertions, allied to the engineering skill of Brindley.  The road accommodation of the district being of an execrable character, he planned and executed a turnpike-road through the Potteries, ten miles in length.  The reputation he achieved was such that his works at Burslem, and subsequently those at Etruria, which he founded and built, became a point of attraction to distinguished visitors from all parts of Europe.
 

Bronze of Wedgwood by Edward Davis.
© Copyright stephen betteridge and
 licensed for reuse under this
Creative Commons Licence.

    The result of Wedgwood's labours was, that the manufacture of pottery, which he found in the very lowest condition, became one of the staples of England; and instead of importing what we needed for home use from abroad, we became large exporters to other countries, supplying them with earthenware even in the face of enormous prohibitory duties on articles of British produce.  Wedgwood gave evidence as to his manufactures before Parliament in 1785, only some thirty years after he had begun his operations; from which it appeared, that instead of providing only casual employment to a small number of inefficient and badly remunerated workmen, about 20,000 persons then derived their bread directly from the manufacture of earthenware, without taking into account the increased numbers to which it gave employment in coal-mines, and in the carrying trade by land and sea, and the stimulus which it gave to employment in many ways in various parts of the country.  Yet, important as had been the advances made in his time, Mr. Wedgwood was of opinion that the manufacture was but in its infancy, and that the improvements which he had effected were of but small amount compared with those to which the art was capable of attaining, through the continued industry and growing intelligence of the manufacturers, and the natural facilities and political advantages enjoyed by Great Britain; an opinion which has been fully borne out by the progress which has since been effected in this important branch of industry.  In 1852 not fewer than 84,000,000 pieces of pottery were exported from England to other countries, besides what were made for home use.  But it is not merely the quantity and value of the produce that is entitled to consideration, but the improvement of the condition of the population by whom this great branch of industry is conducted.  When Wedgwood began his labours, the Staffordshire district was only in a half-civilized state.  The people were poor, uncultivated, and few in number.  When Wedgwood's manufacture was firmly established, there was found ample employment at good wages for three times the number of population; while their moral advancement had kept pace with their material improvement.

    Men such as these are fairly entitled to take rank as the Industrial Heroes of the civilized world.  Their patient self-reliance amidst trials and difficulties, their courage and perseverance in the pursuit of worthy objects, are not less heroic of their kind than the bravery and devotion of the soldier and the sailor, whose duty and pride it is heroically to defend what these valiant leaders of industry have so heroically achieved.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER IV.

APPLICATION AND PERSEVERANCE.


"Rich are the diligent, who can command
     Time, nature's stock! and could his hour-glass fall,
 Would, as for seed of stars, stoop for the sand,
     And, by incessant labour, gather all."—D'Avenant.

 "Allez en avant, et la foi vows viendra!"—D'Alembert.


THE greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means, and the exercise of ordinary qualities.  The common life of every day, with its cares, necessities, and duties, affords ample opportunity for acquiring experience of the best kind; and its most beaten paths provide the true worker with abundant scope for effort and room for self-improvement.  The road of human welfare lies along the old highway of steadfast well-doing; and they who are the most persistent, and work in the truest spirit, will usually be the most successful.

    Fortune has often been blamed for her blindness; but fortune is not so blind as men are.  Those who look into practical life will find that fortune is usually on the side of the industrious, as the winds and waves are on the side of the best navigators.  In the pursuit of even the highest branches of human inquiry, the commoner qualities are found the most useful—such as common sense, attention, application, and perseverance.  Genius may not be necessary, though even genius of the highest sort does not disdain the use of these ordinary qualities.  The very greatest men have been among the least believers in the power of genius, and as worldly wise and persevering as successful men of the commoner sort.  Some have even defined genius to be only common sense intensified.  A distinguished teacher and president of a college spoke of it as the power of making efforts.  John Foster held it to be the power of lighting one's own fire.  Buffon said of genius "it is patience."

    Newton's was unquestionably a mind of the very highest order, and yet, when asked by what means he had worked out his extraordinary discoveries, he modestly answered, "By always thinking unto them."  At another time he thus expressed his method of study: "I keep the subject continually before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly by little and little into a full and clear light."  It was in Newton's case, as in every other, only by diligent application and perseverance that his great reputation was achieved.  Even his recreation consisted in change of study, laying down one subject to take up another.  To Dr. Bentley he said: "If I have done the public any service, it is due to nothing but industry and patient thought."  So Kepler, another great philosopher, speaking of his studies and his progress, said: "As in Virgil, 'Fama mobilitate viget, wires acquirit eundo,' so it was with me, that the diligent thought on these things was the occasion of still further thinking; until at last I brooded with the whole energy of my mind upon the subject."

    The extraordinary results effected by dint of sheer industry and perseverance, have led many distinguished men to doubt whether the gift of genius be so exceptional an endowment as it is usually supposed to be.  Thus Voltaire held that it is only a very slight line of separation that divides the man of genius from the man of ordinary mould.  Beccaria was even of opinion that all men might be poets and orators, and Reynolds that they might be painters and sculptors.  If this were really so, that stolid Englishman might not have been so very far wrong after all, who, on Canova's death, inquired of his brother whether it was "his intention to carry on the business!"  Locke, Helvetius, and Diderot believed that all men have an equal aptitude for genius, and that what some are able to effect, under the laws which regulate the operations of the intellect, must also be within the reach of others who, under like circumstances, apply themselves to like pursuits.  But while admitting to the fullest extent the wonderful achievements of labour, and recognising the fact that men of the most distinguished genius have invariably been found the most indefatigable workers, it must nevertheless be sufficiently obvious that, without the original endowment of heart and brain, no amount of labour, however well applied, could have produced a Shakespeare, a Newton, a Beethoven, or a Michael Angelo.

    Dalton, the chemist, repudiated the notion of his being "a genius," attributing everything which he had accomplished to simple industry and accumulation.  John Hunter said of himself, "My mind is like a beehive; but full as it is of buzz and apparent confusion, it is yet full of order and regularity, and food collected with incessant industry from the choicest stores of nature."  We have, indeed, but to glance at the biographies of great men to find that the most distinguished inventors, artists, thinkers, and workers of all kinds, owe their success, in a great measure, to their indefatigable industry and application.  They were men who turned all things to gold—even time itself.  Disraeli the elder held that the secret of success consisted in being master of your subject, such mastery being attainable only through continuous application and study.  Hence it happens that the men who have most moved the world, have not been so much men of genius, strictly so called, as men of intense mediocre abilities, and untiring perseverance; not so often the gifted, of naturally bright and shining qualities, as those who have applied themselves diligently to their work, in whatsoever line that might lie.  "Alas!" said a widow, speaking of her brilliant but careless son, "he has not the gift of continuance."  Wanting in perseverance, such volatile natures are outstripped in the race of life by the diligent and even the dull.  "Che va piano, va longano, e va lontano," says the Italian proverb: Who goes slowly, goes long, and goes far.

    Hence, a great point to be aimed at is to get the working quality well trained.  When that is done, the race will be found comparatively easy.  We must repeat and again repeat; facility will come with labour.  Not even the simplest art can be accomplished without it; and what difficulties it is found capable of achieving!  It was by early discipline and repetition that the late Sir Robert Peel cultivated those remarkable, though still mediocre powers, which rendered him so illustrious an ornament of the British Senate.  When a boy at Drayton Manor, his father was accustomed to set him up at table to practise speaking extempore; and he early accustomed him to repeat as much of the Sunday's sermon as he could remember.  Little progress was made at first, but by steady perseverance the habit of attention became powerful, and the sermon was at length repeated almost verbatim.  When afterwards replying in succession to the arguments of his parliamentary opponents—an art in which he was perhaps unrivalled—it was little surmised that the extraordinary power of accurate remembrance which he displayed on such occasions had been originally trained under the discipline of his father in the parish church of Drayton.

    It is indeed marvellous what continuous, application will effect in the commonest of things.  It may seem a simple affair to play upon a violin; yet what a long and laborious practice it requires!  Giardini said to a youth who asked him how long it would take to learn it, "Twelve hours a day for twenty years together."  Industry, it is said, fait l'ours danser.  The poor figurante must devote years of incessant toil to her profitless task before she can shine in it.  When Taglioni was preparing herself for her evening exhibition, she would, after a severe two hours' lesson from her father, fall down exhausted, and had to be undressed, sponged, and resuscitated, totally unconscious.  The agility and bounds of the evening were insured only at a price like this.

    Progress, however, of the best kind, is comparatively slow.  Great results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step.  De Maistre says that "to know how to wait is the great secret of success."  We must sow before we can reap, and often have to wait long, content meanwhile to look patiently forward in hope; the fruit best worth waiting for often ripening the slowest.  But "time and patience," says the Eastern proverb, "change the mulberry leaf to satin."

    To wait patiently, however, men must work cheerfully.  Cheerfulness is an excellent working quality, imparting great elasticity to the character.  As a bishop has said, "Temper is nine-tenths of Christianity;" so are cheerfulness and diligence nine-tenths of practical wisdom.  They are the life and soul of success, as well as of happiness; perhaps the very highest pleasure in life consisting in clear, brisk, conscious working; energy, confidence, and every other good quality mainly depending upon it.  Sydney Smith, when labouring as a parish priest at Foston-le-Clay, in Yorkshire,—though he did not feel himself to be in his proper element,—went cheerfully to work in the firm determination to do his best.  "I am resolved," he said, "to like it, and reconcile myself to it, which is more manly than to feign myself above it, and to send up complaints by the post of being thrown away, and being desolate, and such like trash."  So Dr. Hook, when leaving Leeds for a new sphere of labour said, "Wherever I may be, I shall, by God's blessing, do with my might what my hand findeth to do; and if I do not find work, I shall make it."

    Labourers for the public good especially, have to work long and patiently, often uncheered by the prospect of immediate recompense or result.  The seeds they sow sometimes lie hidden under the winter's snow, and before the spring comes the husbandman may have gone to his rest.  It is not every public worker who, like Rowland Hill, sees his great idea bring forth fruit in his life-time.  Adam Smith sowed the seeds of a great social amelioration in that dingy old University of Glasgow where he so long laboured, and laid the foundations of his 'Wealth of Nations;' but seventy years passed before his work bore substantial fruits, nor indeed are they all gathered in yet.
 

WILLIAM CAREY (1761-1834):
English Baptist missionary and translator of the Bible.
Picture: Wikipedia.

    Nothing can compensate for the loss of hope in a man: it entirely changes the character.  "How can I work—how can I be happy," said a great but miserable thinker, "when I have lost all hope?"  One of the most cheerful and courageous, because one of the most hopeful of workers, was Carey, the missionary.  When in India, it was no uncommon thing for him to weary out three pundits, who officiated as his clerks, in one day, he himself taking rest only in change of employment.  Carey, the son of a shoe-maker, was supported in his labours by Ward, the son of a carpenter, and Marsham, the son of a weaver.  By their labours, a magnificent college was erected at Serampore; sixteen flourishing stations were established; the Bible was translated into sixteen languages, and the seeds were sown of a beneficent moral revolution in British India.  Carey was never ashamed of the humbleness of his origin.  On one occasion, when at the Governor-General's table he overheard an officer opposite him asking another, loud enough to be heard, whether Carey had not once been a shoemaker; "No, sir," exclaimed Carey immediately; "only a cobbler."  An eminently characteristic anecdote has been told of his perseverance as a boy.  When climbing a tree one day, his foot slipped, and he fell to the ground, breaking his leg by the fall.  He was confined to his bed for weeks, but when he recovered and was able to walk without support, the very first thing he did was to go and climb that tree.  Carey had need of this sort of dauntless courage for the great missionary work of his life, and nobly and resolutely he did it.

 

Serampore College. [p.99]
Picture: Wikipedia.


    It was a maxim of Dr. Young, the philosopher, that "Any man can do what any other man has done;" and it is unquestionable that he himself never recoiled from any trials to which he determined to subject himself.  It is related of him, that the first time he mounted a horse, he was in company with the grandson of Mr. Barclay of Ury, the well-known sportsman; when the horseman who preceded them leapt a high fence.  Young wished to imitate him, but fell off his horse in the attempt.  Without saying a word, he remounted, made a second effort, and was again unsuccessful, but this time he was not thrown further than on to the horse's neck, to which he clung.  At the third trial, he succeeded, and cleared the fence.

    The story of Timour the Tartar learning a lesson of perseverance under adversity from the spider is well known.  Not less interesting is the anecdote of Audubon, the American ornithologist, as related by himself: "An accident," he says, "which happened to two hundred of my original drawings, nearly put a stop to my researches in ornithology.  I shall relate it, merely to show how far enthusiasm—for by no other name can I call my perseverance—may enable the preserver of nature to surmount the most disheartening difficulties.  I left the village of Henderson, in Kentucky, situated on the banks of the Ohio, where I resided for several years, to proceed to Philadelphia on business.  I looked to my drawings before my departure, placed them carefully in a wooden box, and gave them in charge of a relative, with injunctions to see that no injury should happen to them.  My absence was of several months; and when I returned, after having enjoyed the pleasures of home for a few days, I inquired after my box, and what I was pleased to call my treasure.  The box was produced and opened; but reader, feel for me—a pair of Norway rats had taken possession of the whole, and reared a young family among the gnawed bits of paper, which, but a month previous, represented nearly a thousand inhabitants of air!  The burning heat which instantly rushed through my brain was too great to be endured without affecting my whole nervous system.  I slept for several nights, and the days passed like days of oblivion—until the animal powers being recalled into action through the strength of my constitution, I took up my gun, my notebook, and my pencils, and went forth to the woods as gaily as if nothing had happened.  I felt pleased that I might now make better drawings than before; and, ere a period not exceeding three years had elapsed, my portfolio was again filled."

    The accidental destruction of Sir Isaac Newton's papers, by his little dog 'Diamond' upsetting a lighted taper upon his desk, by which the elaborate calculations of many years were in a moment destroyed, is a well-known anecdote, and need not be repeated: it is said that the loss caused the philosopher such profound grief that it seriously injured his health, and impaired his understanding.  An accident of a somewhat similar kind happened to the MS. of Mr. Carlyle's first volume of his 'French Revolution.'  He had lent the MS. to a literary neighbour to peruse.  By some mischance, it had been left lying on the parlour floor, and become forgotten.  Weeks ran on, and the historian sent for his work, the printers being loud for "copy."  Inquiries were made, and it was found that the maid-of-all-work, finding what she conceived to be a bundle of waste paper on the floor, had used it to light the kitchen and parlour fires with!  Such was the answer returned to Mr. Carlyle; and his feelings may be imagined.  There was, however, no help for him but to set resolutely to work to re write the book; and he turned to and did it.  He had no draft, and was compelled to rake up from his memory facts, ideas, and expressions, which had been long since dismissed.  The composition of the book in the first instance had been a work of pleasure; the re-writing of it a second time was one of pain and anguish almost beyond belief.  That he persevered and finished the volume under such circumstances, affords an instance of determination of purpose which has seldom been surpassed.

    The lives of eminent inventors are eminently illustrative of the same quality of perseverance.  George Stephenson, when addressing young men, was accustomed to sum up his best advice to them in the words, "Do as I have done—persevere."  He had worked at the improvement of his locomotive for some fifteen years before achieving his decisive victory at Rainhill; and Watt was engaged for some thirty years upon the condensing-engine before he brought it to perfection.  But there are equally striking illustrations of perseverance to be found in every other branch of science, art, and industry.  Perhaps one of the most interesting is that connected with the disentombment of the Nineveh marbles, and the discovery of the long-lost cuneiform or arrow-headed character in which the inscriptions on them are written—a kind of writing which had been lost to the world since the period of the Macedonian conquest of Persia.

    An intelligent cadet of the East India Company, stationed at Kermanshah, in Persia, had observed the curious cuneiform inscriptions on the old monuments in the neighbourhood—so old that all historical traces of them had been lost,—and amongst the inscriptions which he copied was that on the celebrated rock of Behistun—a perpendicular rock rising abruptly some 1,700 feet from the plain, the lower part bearing inscriptions for the space of about 300 feet in three languages—Persian, Scythian, and Assyrian.  Comparison of the known with the unknown, of the language which survived with the language that had been lost, enabled this cadet to acquire some knowledge of the cuneiform character, and even to form an alphabet.  Mr. (afterwards Sir Henry) Rawlinson sent his tracings home for examination.  No professors in colleges as yet knew anything of the cuneiform character; but there was a ci-devant clerk of the East India House—a modest unknown man of the name of Norris—who had made this little-understood subject his study, to whom the tracings were submitted; and so accurate was his knowledge, that, though he had never seen the Behistun rock, he pronounced that the cadet had not copied the puzzling inscription with proper exactness.  Rawlinson, who was still in the neighbourhood of the rock, compared his copy with the original, and found that Norris was right; and by further comparison and careful study the knowledge of the cuneiform writing was thus greatly advanced.

    But to make the learning of these two self-taught men of avail, a third labourer was necessary in order to supply them with material for the exercise of their skill.  Such a labourer presented himself in the person of Austen Layard, originally an articled clerk in the office of a London solicitor.  One would scarcely have expected to find in these three men, a cadet, an India-House clerk, and a lawyer's clerk, the discoverers of a forgotten language, and of the buried history of Babylon; yet it was so.  Layard was a youth of only twenty-two, travelling in the East, when he was possessed with a desire to penetrate the regions beyond the Euphrates.  Accompanied by a single companion, trusting to his arms for protection, and, what was better, to his cheerfulness, politeness, and chivalrous bearing, he passed safely amidst tribes at deadly war with each other; and, after the lapse of many years, with comparatively slender means at his command, but aided by application and perseverance, resolute will and purpose, and almost sublime patience,—borne up throughout by his passionate enthusiasm for discovery and research,—he succeeded in laying bare and digging up an amount of historical treasures, the like of which has probably never before been collected by the industry of any one man.  Not less than two miles of bas-reliefs were thus brought to light by Mr. Layard.  The selection of these valuable antiquities, now placed in the British Museum, was found so curiously corroborative of the scriptural records of events which occurred some three thousand years ago, that they burst upon the world almost like a new revelation.  And the story of the disentombment of these remarkable works, as told by Mr. Layard himself in his 'Monuments of Nineveh,' will always be regarded as one of the most charming and unaffected records which we possess of individual enterprise, industry, and energy.

    The career of the Comte de Buffon presents another remarkable illustration of the power of patient industry, as well as of his own saying, that "Genius is patience."  Notwithstanding the great results achieved by him in natural history, Buffon, when a youth, was regarded as of mediocre talents.  His mind was slow in forming itself, and slow in reproducing what it had acquired.  He was also constitutionally indolent; and being born to good estate, it might be supposed that he would indulge his liking for ease and luxury.  Instead of which, he early formed the resolution of denying himself pleasure, and devoting himself to study and self-culture.  Regarding time as a treasure that was limited, and finding that he was losing many hours by lying a-bed in the mornings, he determined to break himself of the habit.  He struggled hard against it for some time, but failed in being able to rise at the hour he had fixed.  He then called his servant, Joseph, to his help, and promised him the reward of a crown every time that he succeeded in getting him up before six.  At first, when called, Buffon declined to rise—pleaded that he was ill, or pretended anger at being disturbed; and on the Count at length getting up, Joseph found that he had earned nothing but reproaches for having permitted his master to lie a-bed contrary to his express orders.  At length the valet determined to earn his crown; and again and again he forced Buffon to rise, notwithstanding his entreaties, expostulations, and threats of immediate discharge from his service.  One morning Buffon was unusually obstinate, and Joseph found it necessary to resort to the extreme measure of dashing a basin of ice-cold water under the bed-clothes, the effect of which was instantaneous.  By the persistent use of such means, Buffon at length conquered his habit; and he was accustomed to say that he owed to Joseph three or four volumes of his Natural History.

    For forty years of his life, Buffon worked every morning at his desk from nine till two, and again in the evening from five till nine.  His diligence was so continuous and so regular that it became habitual.  His biographer has said of him, "Work was his necessity; his studies were the charm of his life; and towards the last term of his glorious career he frequently said that he still hoped to be able to consecrate to them a few more years."  He was a most conscientious worker, always studying to give the reader his best thoughts, expressed in the very best manner.  He was never wearied with touching and retouching his compositions, so that his style may be pronounced almost perfect.  He wrote the 'Époques de la Nature' not fewer than eleven times before he was satisfied with it; although he had thought over the work about fifty years.  He was a thorough man of business, most orderly in everything; and he was accustomed to say that genius without order lost three-fourths of its power.  His great success as a writer was the result mainly of his painstaking labour and diligent application.  "Buffon," observed Madame Necker, "strongly persuaded that genius is the result of a profound attention directed to a particular subject, said that he was thoroughly wearied out when composing his first writings, but compelled himself to return to them and go over them carefully again, even when he thought he had already brought them to a certain degree of perfection; and that at length he found pleasure instead of weariness in this long and elaborate correction."  It ought also to be added that Buffon wrote and published all his great works while afflicted by one of the most painful diseases to which the human frame is subject.

    Literary life affords abundant illustrations of the same power of perseverance; and perhaps no career is more instructive, viewed in this light, than that of Sir Walter Scott.  His admirable working qualities were trained in a lawyer's office, where he pursued for many years a sort of drudgery scarcely above that of a copying clerk.  His daily dull routine made his evenings, which were his own, all the more sweet; and he generally devoted them to reading and study.  He himself attributed to his prosaic office discipline that habit of steady, sober diligence, in which mere literary men are so often found wanting.  As a copying clerk he was allowed 3d. for every page containing a certain number of words; and he sometimes, by extra work, was able to copy as many as 120 pages in twenty-four hours, thus earning some 30s.; out of which he would occasionally purchase an odd volume, otherwise beyond his means.
 

SIR WALTER SCOTT (1771-1832);
Scottish novelist and poet.
Picture (by Raeburn): Wikipedia.

    During his after-life Scott was wont to pride himself upon being a man of business, and he averred, in contradiction to what he called the cant of sonnetteers, that there was no necessary connection between genius and an aversion or contempt for the common duties of life.  On the contrary, he was of opinion that to spend some fair portion of everyday in any matter-of-fact occupation was good for the higher faculties themselves in the upshot.  While afterwards acting as clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, he performed his literary work chiefly before breakfast, attending the court during the day, where he authenticated registered deeds and writings of various kinds.  On the whole, says Lockhart, "it forms one of the most remarkable features in his history, that throughout the most active period of his literary career, he must have devoted a large proportion of his hours, during half at least of every year, to the conscientious discharge of professional duties."  It was a principle of action which he laid down for himself, that he must earn his living by business, and not by literature.  On one occasion he said, "I determined that literature should be my staff, not my crutch, and that the profits of my literary labour, however convenient otherwise, should not, if I could help it, become necessary to my ordinary expenses."

    His punctuality was one of the most carefully cultivated of his habits, otherwise it had not been possible for him to get through so enormous an amount of literary labour.  He made it a rule to answer every letter received by him on the same day, except where inquiry and deliberation were requisite.  Nothing else could have enabled him to keep abreast with the flood of communications that poured in upon him and sometimes put his good nature to the severest test.  It was his practice to rise by five o'clock, and light his own fire.  He shaved and dressed with deliberation, and was seated at his desk by six o'clock, with his papers arranged before him in the most accurate order, his works of reference marshalled round him on the floor, while at least one favourite dog lay watching his eye, outside the line of books.  Thus by the time the family assembled for breakfast, between nine and ten, he had done enough—to use his own words—to break the neck of the day's work.  But with all his diligent and indefatigable industry, and his immense knowledge, the result of many years' patient labour, Scott always spoke with the greatest diffidence of his own powers.  On one occasion he said, "Throughout every part of my career I have felt pinched and hampered by my own ignorance."

    Such is true wisdom and humility; for the more a man really knows, the less conceited he will be.  The student at Trinity College who went up to his professor to take leave of him because he had "finished his education," was wisely rebuked by the professor's reply, "Indeed! I am only beginning mine."  The superficial person who has obtained a smattering of many things, but knows nothing well, may pride himself upon his gifts; but the sage humbly confesses that "all he knows is, that he knows nothing," or like Newton, that he has been only engaged in picking shells by the sea shore, while the great ocean of truth lies all unexplored before him.

    The lives of second-rate literary men furnish equally remarkable illustrations of the power of perseverance.  The late John Britton, author of 'The Beauties of England and Wales,' and of many valuable architectural works, was born in a miserable cot in Kingston, Wiltshire.  His father had been a baker and maltster, but was ruined in trade and became insane while Britton was yet a child.  The boy received very little schooling, but a great deal of bad example, which happily did not corrupt him.  He was early in life set to labour with an uncle, a tavern-keeper in Clerkenwell, under whom he bottled, corked, and binned wine for more than five years.  His health failing him, his uncle turned him adrift in the world, with only two guineas, the fruits of his five years' service, in his pocket.  During the next seven years of his life he endured many vicissitudes and hardships.  Yet he says, in his autobiography, "in my poor and obscure lodgings, at eighteenpence a week, I indulged in study, and often read in bed during the winter evenings, because I could not afford a fire."  Travelling on foot to Bath, he there obtained an engagement as a cellarman, but shortly after we find him back in the metropolis again, almost penniless, shoeless, and shirtless.  He succeeded, however, in obtaining employment as a cellarman at the London Tavern, where it was his duty to be in the cellar from seven in the morning until eleven at night.  His health broke down under this confinement in the dark, added to the heavy work; and he then engaged himself, at fifteen shillings a week, to an attorney,—for he had been diligently cultivating the art of writing during the few spare minutes that he could call his own.  While in this employment, he devoted his leisure principally to perambulating the bookstalls, where he read books by snatches which he could not buy, and thus picked up a good deal of odd knowledge.  Then he shifted to another office, at the advanced wages of twenty shillings a week, still reading and studying.  At twenty-eight he was able to write a book, which he published under the title of 'The Enterprising Adventures of Pizarro;' and from that time until his death, during a period of about fifty-five years, Britton was occupied in laborious literary occupation.  The number of his published works is not fewer than eighty-seven; the most important being 'The Cathedral Antiquities of England,' in fourteen volumes, a truly magnificent work; itself the best monument of John Britton's indefatigable industry.

    Loudon, the landscape gardener, was a man of somewhat similar character, possessed of an extraordinary working power.  The son of a farmer near Edinburgh, he was early inured to work.  His skill in drawing plans and making sketches of scenery induced his father to train him for a landscape gardener.  During his apprenticeship he sat up two whole nights every week to study; yet he worked harder during the day than any labourer.  In the course of his night studies he learnt French, and before he was eighteen he translated a life of Abelard for an Encyclopædia.  He was so eager to make progress in life, that when only twenty, while working as a gardener in England, he wrote down in his note-book, "I am now twenty years of age, and perhaps a third part of my life has passed away, and yet what have I done to benefit my fellow men?" an unusual reflection for a youth of only twenty.  From French he proceeded to learn German, and rapidly mastered that language.  Having taken a large farm, for the purpose of introducing Scotch improvements in the art of agriculture, he shortly succeeded in realising a considerable income.  The continent being thrown open at the end of the war, he travelled abroad for the purpose of inquiring into the system of gardening and agriculture in other countries.  He twice repeated his journeys, and the results were published in his Encyclopædias, which are among the most remarkable works of their kind,—distinguished for the immense mass of useful matter which they contain, collected by an amount of industry and labour which has rarely been equalled.

    The career of Samuel Drew is not less remarkable than any of those which we have cited.  His father was a hardworking labourer of the parish of St. Austell, in Cornwall.  Though poor, he contrived to send his two sons to a penny-a-week school in the neighbourhood.  Jabez, the elder, took delight in learning, and made great progress in his lessons; but Samuel, the younger, was a dunce, notoriously given to mischief and playing truant.  When about eight years old he was put to manual labour, earning three-halfpence a day as a buddle-boy at a tin mine.  At ten he was apprenticed to a shoemaker, and while in this employment he endured much hardship,—living, as he used to say, "like a toad under a harrow."  He often thought of running away and becoming a pirate, or something of the sort, and he seems to have grown in recklessness as he grew in years.  In robbing orchards he was usually a leader; and, as he grew older, he delighted to take part in any poaching or smuggling adventure.  When about seventeen, before his apprenticeship was out, he ran away, intending to enter on board a man-of-war; but, sleeping in a hay-field at night cooled him a little, and he returned to his trade.

    Drew next removed to the neighbourhood of Plymouth to work at his shoemaking business, and while at Cawsand he won a prize for cudgel-playing, in which he seems to have been an adept.  While living there, he had nearly lost his life in a smuggling exploit which he had joined, partly induced by the love of adventure, and partly by the love of gain, for his regular wages were not more than eight shillings a-week.  One night, notice was given throughout Crafthole, that a smuggler was off the coast, ready to land her cargo; on which the male population of the place—nearly all smugglers—made for the shore.  One party remained on the rocks to make signals and dispose of the goods as they were landed; and another manned the boats, Drew being of the latter party.  The night was intensely dark, and very little of the cargo had been landed, when the wind rose, with a heavy sea.  The men in the boats, however, determined to persevere, and several trips were made between the smuggler, now standing farther out to sea, and the shore.  One of the men in the boat in which Drew was, had his hat blown off by the wind, and in attempting to recover it, the boat was upset.  Three of the men were immediately drowned; the others clung to the boat for a time, but finding it drifting out to sea, they took to swimming.  They were two miles from land, and the night was intensely dark.  After being about three hours in the water, Drew reached a rock near the shore, with one or two others, where he remained benumbed with cold till morning, when he and his companions were discovered and taken off, more dead than alive.  A keg of brandy from the cargo just landed was brought, the head knocked in with a hatchet, and a bowlfull of the liquid presented to the survivors; and, shortly after, Drew was able to walk two miles through deep snow, to his lodgings.

    This was a very unpromising beginning of a life; and yet this same Drew, scapegrace, orchard-robber, shoemaker, cudgel-player, and smuggler, outlived the recklessness of his youth and became distinguished as a minister of the Gospel and a writer of good books.  Happily, before it was too late, the energy which characterised him was turned into a more healthy direction, and rendered him as eminent in usefulness as he had before been in wickedness.  His father again took him back to St. Austell, and found employment for him as a journeyman shoemaker.  Perhaps his recent escape from death had tended to make the young man serious, as we shortly find him, attracted by the forcible preaching of Dr. Adam Clarke, a minister of the Wesleyan Methodists.  His brother having died about the same time, the impression of seriousness was deepened; and thenceforward he was an altered man.  He began anew the work of education, for he had almost forgotten how to read and write; and even after several years' practice, a friend compared his writing to the traces of a spider dipped in ink set to crawl upon paper.  Speaking of himself, about that time, Drew afterwards said, "The more I read, the more I felt my own ignorance; and the more I felt my ignorance, the more invincible became my energy to surmount it.  Every leisure moment was now employed in reading one thing or another.  Having to support myself by manual labour, my time for reading was but little, and to overcome this disadvantage, my usual method was to place a book before me while at meat, and at every repast I read five or six pages."  The perusal of Locke's 'Essay on the Understanding' gave the first metaphysical turn to his mind.  "It awakened me from my stupor," said he, "and induced me to form a resolution to abandon the grovelling views which I had been accustomed to entertain,"

    Drew began business on his own account, with a capital of a few shillings; but his character for steadiness was such that a neighbouring miller offered him a loan, which was accepted, and, success attending his industry, the debt was repaid at the end of a year.  He started with a determination to "owe no man anything," and he held to it in the midst of many privations.  Often he went to bed supperless, to avoid rising in debt.  His ambition was to achieve independence by industry and economy, and in this he gradually succeeded.  In the midst of incessant labour, he sedulously strove to improve his mind, studying astronomy, history, and metaphysics.  He was induced to pursue the latter study chiefly because it required fewer books to consult than either of the others.  "It appeared to be a thorny path," he said, "but I determined, nevertheless, to enter, and accordingly began to tread it."

    Added to his labours in shoemaking and metaphysics, Drew became a local preacher and a class leader.  He took an eager interest in politics, and his shop became a favourite resort with the village politicians.  And when they did not come to him, he went to them to talk over public affairs.  This so encroached upon his time that he found it necessary sometimes to work until midnight to make up for the hours lost during the day.  His political fervour became the talk of the village.  While busy one night hammering away at a shoe-sole, a little boy, seeing a light in the shop, put his mouth to the keyhole of the door, and called out in a shrill pipe, "Shoemaker! shoemaker! work by night and run about by day!"  A friend, to whom Drew afterwards told the story, asked, "And did not you run after the boy, and strap him?"  "No, no," was the reply; "had a pistol been fired off at my ear, I could not have been more dismayed or confounded.  I dropped my work, and said to myself, 'True true! but you shall never have that to say of me again.'  To me that cry was as the voice of God, and it has been a word in season throughout my life.  I learnt from it not to leave till to-morrow the work of to-day, or to idle when I ought to be working."

    From that moment Drew dropped politics, and stuck to his work, reading and studying, in his spare hours: but he never allowed the latter pursuit to interfere with his business, though it frequently broke in upon his rest.  He married, and thought of emigrating to America; but he remained working on.  His literary taste first took the direction of poetical composition; and from some of the fragments which have been preserved, it appears that his speculations as to the immaterialty and immortality of the soul had their origin in these poetical musings.  His study was the kitchen, where his wife's bellows served him for a desk; and he wrote amidst the cries and cradlings of his children.  Paine's 'Age of Reason' having appeared about this time and excited much interest, he composed a pamphlet in refutation of its arguments, which was published.  He used afterwards to say that it was the 'Age of Reason' that made him an author.  Various pamphlets from his pen shortly appeared in rapid succession, and a few years later, while still working at shoemaking, he wrote and published his admirable 'Essay on the Immaterialty and Immortality of the Human Soul,' which he sold for twenty pounds, a great sum in his estimation at the time.  The book went through many editions, and is still prized.

    Drew was in no wise puffed up by his success, as many young authors are, but, long after he had become celebrated as a writer, used to be seen sweeping the street before his door, or helping his apprentices to carry in the winter's coals.  Nor could he, for some time, bring himself to regard literature as a profession to live by.  His first care was to secure an honest livelihood by his business, and to put into the "lottery of literary success," as he termed it, only the surplus of his time.  At length, however, he devoted himself wholly to literature, more particularly in connection with the Wesleyan body; editing one of their magazines, and superintending the publication of several of their denominational works.   He also wrote in the 'Eclectic Review,' and compiled and published a valuable history of his native county, Cornwall, with numerous other works.  Towards the close of his career, he said of himself,—"Raised from one of the lowest stations in society, I have endeavoured through life to bring my family into a state of respectability, by honest industry, frugality, and a high regard for my moral character.  Divine providence has smiled on my exertions, and crowned my wishes with success."

    The late Joseph Hume pursued a very different career, but worked in an equally persevering spirit.  He was a man of moderate parts, but of great industry and unimpeachable honesty of purpose.  The motto of his life was "Perseverance," and well he acted up to it.  His father dying while he was a mere child, his mother opened a small shop in Montrose, and toiled hard to maintain her family and bring them up respectably.  Joseph she put apprentice to a surgeon, and educated for the medical profession.  Having got his diploma, he made several voyages to India as ship's surgeon, [p.115] and afterwards obtained a cadetship in the Company's service.  None worked harder, or lived more temperately, than he did; and, securing the confidence of his superiors, who found him a capable man in the performance of his duty, they gradually promoted him to higher offices.  In 1803 he was with the division of the army under General Powell, in the Mahratta war; and the interpreter having died, Hume, who had meanwhile studied and mastered the native languages, was appointed in his stead.  He was next made chief of the medical staff.  But as if this were not enough to occupy his full working power, he undertook in addition the offices of paymaster and postmaster, and filled them satisfactorily.  He also contracted to supply the commissariat, which he did with advantage to the army and profit to himself.  After about ten years' unremitting labour, he returned to England with a competency; and one of his first acts was to make provision for the poorer members of his family.

    But Joseph Hume was not a man to enjoy the fruits of his industry in idleness.  Work and occupation had become necessary for his comfort and happiness.  To make himself fully acquainted with the actual state of his own country, and the condition of the people, he visited every town in the kingdom which then enjoyed any degree of manufacturing celebrity.  He afterwards travelled abroad for the purpose of obtaining a knowledge of foreign states.  Returned to England, he entered Parliament in 1812, and continued a member of that assembly, with a short interruption, for a period of about thirty-four years.  His first recorded speech was on the subject of public education, and throughout his long and honourable career he took an active and earnest interest in that and all other questions calculated to elevate and improve the condition of the people—criminal reform, savings-banks, free trade, economy and retrenchment, extended representation, and such like measures, all of which he indefatigably promoted.  Whatever subject he undertook, he worked at with all his might.  He was not a good speaker, but what he said was believed to proceed from the lips of an honest, single-minded, accurate man.  If ridicule, as Shaftesbury says, be the test of truth, Joseph Hume stood the test well.  No man was more laughed at, but there he stood perpetually, and literally, "at his post."  He was usually beaten on a division, but the influence which he exercised was nevertheless felt, and many important financial improvements were effected by him even with the vote directly against him.  The amount of hard work which he contrived to get through was something extraordinary.  He rose at six, wrote letters and arranged his papers for parliament; then, after breakfast, he received persons on business, sometimes as many as twenty in a morning.  The House rarely assembled without him, and though the debate might be prolonged to two or three o'clock in the morning, his name was seldom found absent from the division.  In short, to perform the work which he did, extending over so long a period, in the face of so many Administrations, week after week, year after year,—to be outvoted, beaten, laughed at, standing on many occasions almost alone,—to persevere in the face of every discouragement, preserving his temper unruffled, never relaxing in his energy or his hope, and living to see the greater number of his measures adopted with acclamation, must be regarded as one of the most remarkable illustrations of the power of human perseverance that biography can exhibit.


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CHAPTER V.

HELPS AND OPPORTUNITIES— SCIENTIFIC PURSUITS.


"Neither the naked hand, nor the understanding, left to itself, can do much; the work is accomplished by instruments and helps, of which the need is not less for the understanding than the hand."—Bacon.

"Opportunity has hair in front, behind she is bald; if you seize her by the forelock you may hold her, but, if suffered to escape, not Jupiter himself can catch her again."—From the Latin.


ACCIDENT does very little towards the production of any great result in life.  Though sometimes what is called "a happy hit" may be made by a bold venture, the common highway of steady industry and application is the only safe road to travel.  It is said of the landscape painter Wilson, that when he had nearly finished a picture in a tame, correct manner, he would step back from it, his pencil fixed at the end of a long stick, and after gazing earnestly on the work, he would suddenly walk up and by a few bold touches give a brilliant finish to the painting.  But it will not do for every one who would produce an effect, to throw his brush at the canvas in the hope of producing a picture.  The capability of putting in these last vital touches is acquired only by the labour of a life; and the probability is, that the artist who has not carefully trained himself beforehand, in attempting to produce a brilliant effect at a dash, will only produce a blotch.

    Sedulous attention and painstaking industry always mark the true worker.  The greatest men are not those who "despise the day of small things," but those who improve them the most carefully.  Michael Angelo was one day explaining to a visitor at his studio, what he had been doing at a statue since his previous visit.  "I have retouched this part—polished that—softened this feature—brought out that muscle—given some expression to this lip, and more energy to that limb."  "But these are trifles," remarked the visitor.  "It may be so," replied the sculptor, "but recollect that trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle."  So it was said of Nicholas Poussin, the painter, that the rule of his conduct was, that "whatever was worth doing at all was worth doing well;" and when asked, late in life, by his friend Vigneul de Marville, by what means he had gained so high a reputation among the painters of Italy, Poussin emphatically answered, "Because I have neglected nothing."

    Although there are discoveries which are said to have been made by accident, if carefully inquired into, it will be found that there has really been very little that was accidental about them.  For the most part, these so-called accidents have only been opportunities, carefully improved by genius.  The fall of the apple at Newton's feet has often been quoted in proof of the accidental character of some discoveries.  But Newton's whole mind had already been devoted for years to the laborious and patient investigation of the subject of gravitation; and the circumstance of the apple falling before his eyes was suddenly apprehended only as genius could apprehend it, and served to flash upon him the brilliant discovery then opening to his sight.  In like manner, the brilliantly-coloured soap-bubbles blown from a common tobacco pipe—though "trifles light as air" in most eyes—suggested to Dr. Young his beautiful theory of "interferences," and led to his discovery relating to the diffraction of light.  Although great men are popularly supposed only to deal with great things, men such as Newton and Young were ready to detect the significance of the most familiar and simple facts; their greatness consisting mainly in their wise interpretation of them.

    The difference between men consists, in a great measure, in the intelligence of their observation.  The Russian proverb says of the non-observant man, "He goes through the forest and sees no firewood."  "The wise man's eyes are in his head," says Solomon, "but the fool walketh in darkness."  "Sir," said Johnson, on one occasion, to a fine gentleman just returned from Italy, "some men will learn more in the Hampstead stage than others in the tour of Europe."  It is the mind that sees as well as the eye.  Where unthinking gazers observe nothing, men of intelligent vision penetrate into the very fibre of the phenomena presented to them, attentively noting differences, making comparisons, and recognizing their underlying idea.  Many before Galileo had seen a suspended weight swing before their eyes with a measured beat; but he was the first to detect the value of the fact.  One of the vergers in the cathedral at Pisa, after replenishing with oil a lamp which hung from the roof, left it swinging to and fro; and Galileo, then a youth of only eighteen, noting it attentively, conceived the idea of applying it to the measurement of time.  Fifty years of study and labour, however, elapsed, before he completed the invention of his Pendulum,—the importance of which, in the measurement of time and in astronomical calculations, can scarcely be overrated.  In like manner, Galileo, having casually heard that one Lippershey, a Dutch spectacle-maker, had presented to Count Maurice of Nassau an instrument by means of which distant objects appeared nearer to the beholder, addressed himself to the cause of such a phenomenon, which led to the invention of the telescope, and proved the beginning of the modern science of astronomy.  Discoveries such as these could never have been made by a negligent observer, or by a mere passive listener.

 

Union Bridge over the River Tweed, Northumberland. [p.121-1]
© Copyright Steve Brown and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


    While Captain (afterwards Sir Samuel) Brown was occupied in studying the construction of bridges, with the view of contriving one of a cheap description to be thrown across the Tweed, near which he lived, he was walking in his garden one dewy autumn morning, when he saw a tiny spider's net suspended across his path.  The idea immediately occurred to him, that a bridge of iron ropes or chains might be constructed in like manner, and the result was the invention of his Suspension Bridge.  So James Watt, when consulted about the mode of carrying water by pipes under the Clyde, along the unequal bed of the river, turned his attention one day to the shell of a lobster presented at table; and from that model he invented an iron tube, which, when laid down, was found effectually to answer the purpose.  Sir Isambert Brunel [p.121-2] took his first lessons in forming the Thames Tunnel from the tiny shipworm: he saw how the little creature perforated the wood with its well-armed head, first in one direction and then in another, till the archway was complete, and then daubed over the roof and sides with a kind of varnish; and by copying this work exactly on a large scale, Brunel was at length enabled to construct his shield and accomplish his great engineering work.

    It is the intelligent eye of the careful observer which gives these apparently trivial phenomena their value.  So trifling a matter as the sight of seaweed floating past his ship, enabled Columbus to quell the mutiny which arose amongst his sailors at not discovering land, and to assure them that the eagerly sought New World was not far off.  There is nothing so small that it should remain forgotten; and no fact, however trivial, but may prove useful in some way or other if carefully interpreted.  Who could have imagined that the famous "chalk cliffs of Albion'' had been built up by tiny insects—detected only by the help of the microscope—of the same order of creatures that have gemmed the sea with islands of coral!  And who that contemplates such extraordinary results, arising from infinitely minute operations, will venture to question the power of little things?

    It is the close observation of little things which is the secret of success in business, in art, in science, and in every pursuit in life.  Human knowledge is but an accumulation of small facts, made by successive generations of men, the little bits of knowledge and experience carefully treasured up by them growing at length into a mighty pyramid.  Though many of these facts and observations seemed in the first instance to have but slight significance, they are all found to have their eventual uses, and to fit into their proper places.  Even many speculations seemingly remote, turn out to be the basis of results the most obviously practical.  In the case of the conic sections discovered by Apollonius Pergæus, twenty centuries elapsed before they were made the basis of astronomy—a science which enables the modern navigator to steer his way through unknown seas and traces for him in the heavens an unerring path to his appointed haven.  And had not mathematicians toiled for so long, and, to uninstructed observers, apparently so fruitlessly, over the abstract relations of lines and surfaces, it is probable that but few of our mechanical inventions would have seen the light.

    When Franklin made his discovery of the identity of lightning and electricity, it was sneered at, and people asked, "Of what use is it?"  To which his reply was, "What is the use of a child?  It may become a man!"  When Galvani discovered that a frog's leg twitched when placed in contact with different metals, it could scarcely have been imagined that so apparently insignificant a fact could have led to important results.  Yet therein lay the germ of the Electric Telegraph, which binds the intelligence of continents together, and, probably before many years have elapsed will "put a girdle round the globe."  [p.122]  So too, little bits of stone and fossil, dug out of the earth, intelligently interpreted, have issued in the science of geology and the practical operations of mining, in which large capitals are invested and vast numbers of persons profitably employed.

 

The World's major telegraph routes in 1891.
Picture: Wikipedia.


    The gigantic machinery employed in pumping our mines, working our mills and manufactures, and driving our steamships and locomotives, in like manner depends for its supply of power upon so slight an agency as little drops of water expanded by heat,—that familiar agency called steam, which we see issuing from that common tea-kettle spout, but which, when pent up within an ingeniously contrived mechanism, displays a force equal to that of millions of horses, and contains a power to rebuke the waves and set even the hurricane at defiance.  The same power at work within the bowels of the earth has been the cause of those volcanoes and earthquakes which have played so mighty a part in the history of the globe.

    It is said that the Marquis of Worcester's attention was first accidentally directed to the subject of steam power, by the tight cover of a vessel containing hot water having been blown off before his eyes, when confined a prisoner in the Tower.  He published the result of his observations in his 'Century of Inventions,' which formed a sort of text-book for inquirers into the powers of steam for a time, until Savary, Newcomen, and others, applying it to practical purposes, brought the steam-engine to the state in which Watt found it when called upon to repair a model of Newcomen's engine, which belonged to the University of Glasgow.  This accidental circumstance was an opportunity for Watt, which he was not slow to improve; and it was the labour of his life to bring the steam-engine to perfection.

    This art of seizing opportunities and turning even accidents to account, bending them to some purpose, is a great secret of success.  Dr. Johnson has defined genius to be "a mind of large general powers accidentally determined in some particular direction."  Men who are resolved to find a way for themselves, will always find opportunities enough; and if and if they do not lie ready to their hand, they will make them.  It is not those who have enjoyed the advantages of colleges, museums, and public galleries, that have accomplished the most for science and art; nor have the greatest mechanics and inventors been trained in mechanics' institutes.  Necessity, oftener than facility, has been the mother of invention and the most prolific school of all has been the school of difficulty.  Some of the very best workmen have had the most indifferent tools to work with.  But it is not tools that make the workman, but the trained skill and perseverance of the man himself.  Indeed it is proverbial that the bad workman never yet had a good tool.  Some one asked Opie by what wonderful process he mixed his colours.  "I mix them with my brains, sir," was his reply.  It is the same with every workman who would excel.  Ferguson made marvellous things—such as his wooden clock, that accurately measured the hours—by means of a common penknife, a tool in everybody's hand; but then everybody is not a Ferguson.  A pan of water and two thermometers were the tools by which Dr. Black discovered latent heat [p.124]; and a prism, a lens, and a sheet of pasteboard enabled Newton to unfold the composition of light and the origin of colours.  An eminent foreign savant once called upon Dr. Wollaston, and requested to be shown over his laboratories in which science had been enriched by so many important discoveries, when the doctor took him into a little study, and, pointing to an old tea-tray on the table, containing a few watch-glasses, test papers, a small balance, and a blowpipe, said, "There is all the laboratory that I have!"

 

DR. JOSEPH BLACK (1728-99):
Scottish physician, known for his discoveries
of latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide.
Picture: Wikipedia.


    Stothard learnt the art of combining colours by closely studying butterflies' wings: he would often say that no one knew what he owed to these tiny insects.  A burnt stick and a barn door served Wilkie in lieu of pencil and canvas.  Bewick first practised drawing on the cottage walls of his native village, which he covered with his sketches in chalk; and Benjamin West made his first brushes out of the cat's tail.  Ferguson laid himself down in the fields at night in a blanket, and made a map of the heavenly bodies by means of a thread with small beads on it stretched between his eye and the stars.  Franklin first robbed the thundercloud of its lightning by means of a kite made with two cross sticks and a silk handkerchief.  Watt made his first model of the condensing steam-engine out of an old anatomist's syringe, used to inject the arteries previous to dissection.  Gifford worked his first problems in mathematics, when a cobbler's apprentice, upon small scraps of leather, which he beat smooth for the purpose; whilst Rittenhouse, the astronomer, first calculated eclipses on his plough handle.

    The most ordinary occasions will furnish a man with opportunities or suggestions for improvement, if he be but prompt to take advantage of them.  Professor Lee was attracted to the study of Hebrew by finding a Bible in that tongue in a synagogue, while working as a common carpenter at the repairs of the benches.  He became possessed with a desire to read the book in the original, and, buying a cheap second-hand copy of a Hebrew grammar, he set to work and learnt the language for himself.  As Edmund Stone said to the Duke of Argyle, in answer to his grace's inquiry how he, a poor gardener's boy, had contrived to be able to read Newton's Principia in Latin, "One needs only to know the twenty-four letters of the alphabet in order to learn everything else that one wishes."  Application and perseverance, and the diligent improvement of opportunities, will do the rest.

    Sir Walter Scott found opportunities for self-improvement in every pursuit, and turned even accidents to account.  Thus it was in the discharge of his functions as a writer's apprentice that he first visited the Highlands, and formed those friendships among the surviving heroes of 1745 which served to lay the foundation of a large class of his works.  Later in life, when employed as quartermaster of the Edinburgh Light Cavalry, he was accidentally disabled by the kick of a horse, and confined for some time to his house; but Scott was a sworn enemy to idleness, and he forthwith set his mind to work.  In three days he had composed the first canto of 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel,' which he shortly after finished,—his first great original work.

 

JOSEPH PRIESTLEY LL.D., F.R.S. (1733-1804):
English theologian and scientist, usually
credited with the discovery of oxygen.


    The attention of Dr. Priestley, the discoverer of so many gases, was accidentally drawn to the subject of chemistry through his living in the neighbourhood of a brewery.  When visiting the place one day, he noted the peculiar appearances attending the extinction of lighted chips in the gas floating over the fermented liquor.  He was forty years old at the time, and knew nothing of chemistry.  He consulted books to ascertain the cause, but they told him little, for as yet nothing was known on the subject.  Then he began to experiment, with some rude apparatus of his own contrivance.  The curious results of his first experiments led to others, which in his hands shortly became the science of pneumatic chemistry.  About the same time, Scheele was obscurely working in the same direction in a remote Swedish village; and he discovered several new gases, with no more effective apparatus at his command than a few apothecaries' phials and pigs' bladders.

    Sir Humphry Davy, when an apothecary's apprentice, performed his first experiments with instruments of the rudest description.  He extemporised the greater part of them himself, out of the motley materials which chance threw in his way,—the pots and pans of the kitchen, and the phials and vessels of his master's surgery.  It happened that a French ship was wrecked off the Land's End, and the surgeon escaped, bearing with him his case of instruments, amongst which was an old-fashioned glyster apparatus; this article he presented to Davy, with whom he had become acquainted.  The apothecary's apprentice received it with great exultation, and forthwith employed it as a part of a pneumatic apparatus which he contrived, afterwards using it to perform the duties of an air-pump in one of his experiments on the nature and sources of heat.

 

MICHAEL FARADAY F.R.S. (1791-1867):
English chemist and physicist.
Picture: Internet Text Archive.


    In like manner Professor Faraday, Sir Humphry Davy's scientific successor, made his first experiments in electricity by means of an old bottle, while he was still a working bookbinder.  And it is a curious fact that Faraday was first attracted to the study of chemistry by hearing one of Sir Humphry Davy's lectures on the subject at the Royal Institution.  A gentleman, who was a member, calling one day at the shop where Faraday was employed in binding books, found him poring over the article "Electricity" in an Encyclopædia placed in his hands to bind.  The gentleman, having made inquiries, found that the young bookbinder was curious about such subjects, and gave him an order of admission to the Royal Institution, where he attended a course of four lectures delivered by Sir Humphry.  He took notes of them, which he showed to the lecturer, who acknowledged their scientific accuracy, and was surprised when informed of the humble position of the reporter.  Faraday then expressed his desire to devote himself to the prosecution of chemical studies, from which Sir Humphry at first endeavoured to dissuade him: but the young man persisting, he was at length taken into the Royal Institution as an assistant; and eventually the mantle of the brilliant apothecary's boy fell upon the worthy shoulders of the equally brilliant bookbinder's apprentice.

    The words which Davy entered in his note-book, when about twenty years of age, working in Dr. Beddoes' laboratory at Bristol, were eminently characteristic of him: "I have neither riches, nor power, nor birth to recommend me; yet if I live, I trust I shall not be of less service to mankind and my friends, than if I had been born with all these advantages."  Davy possessed the capability, as Faraday does, of devoting the whole power of his mind to the practical and experimental investigation of a subject in all its bearings; and such a mind will rarely fail, by dint of mere industry and patient thinking, in producing results of the highest order.  Coleridge said of Davy, "There is an energy and elasticity in his mind, which enables him to seize on and analyze all questions, pushing them to their legitimate consequences.  Every subject in Davy's mind has the principle of vitality.  Living thoughts spring up like turf under his feet."  Davy, on his part, said of Coleridge, whose abilities he greatly admired, "With the most exalted genius, enlarged views, sensitive heart, and enlightened mind, he will be the victim of a want of order, precision, and regularity."

    The great Cuvier was a singularly accurate, careful, and industrious observer.  When a boy, he was attracted to the subject of natural history by the sight of a volume of Buffon which accidentally fell in his way.  He at once proceeded to copy the drawings, and to colour them after the descriptions given in the text.  While still at school, one of his teachers made him a present of 'Linnæus's System of Nature;' and for more than ten years this constituted his library of natural history.  At eighteen he was offered the situation of tutor in a family residing near Fécamp, in Normandy.  Living close to the sea-shore, he was brought face to face with the wonders of marine life.  Strolling along the sands one day, he observed a stranded cuttle-fish.  He was attracted by the curious object, took it home to dissect, and thus began the study of the molluscæ, in the pursuit of which he achieved so distinguished a reputation.  He had no books to refer to, excepting only the great book of Nature which lay open before him.  The study of the novel and interesting objects which it daily presented to his eyes made a much deeper impression on his mind than any written or engraved descriptions could possibly have done.  Three years thus passed, during which he compared the living species of marine animals with the fossil remains found in the neighbourhood, dissected the specimens of marine life that came under his notice, and, by careful observation, prepared the way for a complete reform in the classification of the animal kingdom.  About this time Cuvier became known to the learned Abbé Teissier, who wrote to Jussieu and other friends in Paris on the subject of the young naturalist's inquiries, in terms of such high commendation, that Cuvier was requested to send some of his papers to the Society of Natural History; and he was shortly after appointed assistant-superintendent at the Jardin des Plantes.  In the letter written by Teissier to Jussieu, introducing the young naturalist to his notice, he said, "You remember that it was I who gave Delambre to the Academy in another branch of science: this also will be a Delambre."  We need scarcely add that the prediction of Teissier was more than fulfilled.

    It is not accident, then, that helps a man in the world so much as purpose and persistent industry.  To the feeble, the sluggish and purposeless, the happiest accidents avail nothing,—they pass them by, seeing no meaning in them.  But it is astonishing how much can be accomplished if we are prompt to seize and improve the opportunities for action and effort which are constantly presenting themselves.  Watt himself chemistry and mechanics while working at his trade of a mathematical-instrument maker, at the same time that he was learning German from a Swiss dyer.  Stephenson taught himself arithmetic and mensuration while working as an engineman during the night shifts; and when he could snatch a few moments in the intervals allowed for meals during the day, he worked his sums with a bit of chalk upon the sides of the colliery waggons.  Dalton's industry was the habit of his life.  He began from his boyhood, for he taught a little village-school when he was only about twelve years old,—keeping the school in winter, and working upon his father's farm in summer.  He would sometimes urge himself and companions to study by the stimulus of a bet, though bred a Quaker; and on one occasion, by his satisfactory solution of a problem, he won as much as enabled him to buy a winter's store of candles.  He continued his meteorological observations until a day or two before he died,—having made and recorded upwards of 200,000 in the course of his life.

    With perseverance, the very odds and ends of time may be worked up into results of the greatest value.  An hour in every day withdrawn from frivolous pursuits would, if profitably employed, enable a person of ordinary capacity to go far towards mastering a science.   It would make an ignorant man a well-informed one in less than ten years.  Time should not be allowed to pass without yielding fruits, in the form of something learnt worthy of being known, some good principle cultivated, or some good habit strengthened.  Dr. Mason Good translated Lucretius while riding in his carriage in the streets of London, going the round of his patients.  Dr. Darwin composed nearly all his works in the same way while driving about in his "sulky" from house to house in the country,—writing down his thoughts on little scraps of paper, which he carried about with him for the purpose.  Hale wrote his 'Contemplations' while travelling on circuit.  Dr. Burney learnt French and Italian while travelling on horseback from one musical pupil to another in the course of his profession.  Kirke White learnt Greek while walking to and from a lawyer's office; and we personally know a man of eminent position who learnt Latin and French while going messages as an errand-boy in the streets of Manchester.

    Daguesseau, one of the great Chancellors of France, by carefully working up his odd bits of time, wrote a bulky and able volume in the successive intervals of waiting for dinner; and Madame de Genlis composed several of her charming volumes while waiting for the princess to whom she gave her daily lessons.  Elihu Burritt attributed his first success in self-improvement, not to genius, which he disclaimed, but simply to the careful employment of those invaluable fragments of time, called "odd moments."  While working and earning his living as a blacksmith, he mastered some eighteen ancient and modern languages, and twenty-two European dialects.

    What a solemn and striking admonition to youth is that inscribed on the dial at All Souls, Oxford—"Pereunt et imputantur"—the hours perish, and are laid to our charge.  Time is the only little fragment of Eternity that belongs to man; and, like life, it can never be recalled.  "In the dissipation of worldly treasure," says Jackson of Exeter, "the frugality of the future may balance the extravagance of the past; but who can say, 'I will take from minutes to-morrow to compensate for those I have lost to-day?'"  Melancthon noted down the time lost by him, that he might thereby reanimate his industry, and not lose an hour.  An Italian scholar put over his door an inscription intimating that whosoever remained there should join in his labours.  "We are afraid," said some visitors to Baxter, "that we break in upon your time."  "To be sure you do," replied the disturbed and blunt divine.  Time was the estate out of which these great workers, and all other workers, formed that rich treasury of thoughts and deeds which they have left to their successors.

    The mere drudgery undergone by some men in carrying on their undertakings has been something extraordinary, but the drudgery they regarded as the price of success.  Addison amassed as much as three folios of manuscript materials before he began his 'Spectator.'  Newton wrote his 'Chronology' fifteen times over before he was satisfied with it; and Gibbon wrote out his 'Memoir' nine times.  Hale studied for many years at the rate of sixteen hours a day, and when wearied with the study of the law, he would recreate himself with philosophy and the study of the mathematics.  Hume wrote thirteen hours a day while preparing his 'History of England.'  Montesquieu, speaking of one part of his writings, said to a friend, "You will read it in a few hours; but I assure you it has cost me so much labour that it has whitened my hair."

    The practice of writing down thoughts and facts for the purpose of holding them fast and preventing their escape into the dim region of forgetfulness, has been much resorted to by thoughtful and studious men.  Lord Bacon left behind him many manuscripts entitled "Sudden thoughts set down for use."  Erskine made great extracts from Burke; and Eldon copied Coke upon Littleton twice over with his own hand, so that the book became, as it were, part of his own mind.  The late Dr. Pye Smith, when apprenticed to his father as a bookbinder, was accustomed to make copious memoranda of all the books he read, with extracts and criticisms.  This indomitable industry in collecting materials distinguished him through life, his biographer describing him as "always at work, always in advance, always accumulating."  These note-books afterwards proved, like Richter's "quarries," the great storehouse from which he drew his illustrations.

    The same practice characterized the eminent John Hunter, who adopted it for the purpose of supplying the defects of memory; and he was accustomed thus to illustrate the advantages which one derives from putting one's thoughts in writing: "It resembles," he said, "a tradesman taking stock, without which he never knows either what he possesses or in what he is deficient."  John Hunter—whose observation was so keen that Abernethy was accustomed to speak of him as "the Argus-eyed"—furnished an illustrious example of the power of patient industry.  He received little or no education till he was about twenty years of age, and it was with difficulty that he acquired the arts of reading and writing.  He worked for some years as a common carpenter at Glasgow, after which he joined his brother William, who had settled in London as a lecturer and anatomical demonstrator.  John entered his dissecting-room as an assistant, but soon shot ahead of his brother, partly by virtue of his great natural ability, but mainly by reason of his patient application and indefatigable industry.  He was one of the first in this country to devote himself assiduously to the study of comparative anatomy, and the objects he dissected and collected took the eminent Professor Owen no less than ten years to arrange.  The collection contains some twenty thousand specimens, and is the most precious treasure of the kind that has ever been accumulated by the industry of one man.  Hunter used to spend every morning from sunrise until eight o'clock in his museum; and throughout the day he carried on his extensive private practice, performed his laborious duties as surgeon to St. George's Hospital and deputy surgeon-general to the army; delivered lectures to students, and superintended a school of practical anatomy at his own house; finding leisure, amidst all, for elaborate experiments on the animal economy, and the composition of various works of great scientific importance.  To find time for this gigantic amount of work, he allowed himself only four hours of sleep at night, and an hour after dinner.  When once asked what method he had adopted to insure success in his undertakings, he replied "My rule is, deliberately to consider, before I commence, whether the thing be practicable.  If it be not practicable, I do not attempt it.  If it be practicable, I can accomplish it if I give sufficient pains to it; and having begun, I never stop till the thing is done.  To this rule I owe all my success."

    Hunter occupied a great deal of his time in collecting definite facts respecting matters which, before his day, were regarded as exceedingly trivial.  Thus it was supposed by many of his contemporaries that he was only wasting his time and thought in studying so carefully as he did the growth of a deer's horn.  But Hunter was impressed with the conviction that no accurate knowledge of scientific facts is without its value.  By the study referred to, he learnt how arteries accommodate themselves to circumstances, and enlarge as occasion requires; and the knowledge thus acquired emboldened him, in a case of aneurism in a branch artery, to tie the main trunk where no surgeon before him had dared to tie it, and the life of his patient was saved.  Like many original men, he worked for a long time as it were underground, digging and laying foundations.  He was a solitary and self-reliant genius, holding on his course without the solace of sympathy or approbation,—for but few of his contemporaries perceived the ultimate object of his pursuits.  But like all true workers, he did not fail in securing his best reward—that which depends less upon others than upon one's self—the approval of conscience, which in a right-minded man invariably follows the honest and energetic performance of duty.

    Ambrose Paré, the great French surgeon, was another illustrious instance of close observation, patient application, and indefatigable perseverance.  He was the son of a barber at Laval, in Maine, where he was born in 1509.  His parents were too poor to send him to school, but they placed him as foot-boy with the curé of the village, hoping that under that learnèd man he might pick up an education for himself.  But the curé kept him so busily employed in grooming his mule and in other menial offices that the boy found no time for learning.  While in his service, it happened that the celebrated lithotomist, Cotot, came to Laval to operate on one of the curé's ecclesiastical brethren.  Paré was present at the operation, and was so much interested by it that he is said to have from that time formed the determination of devoting himself to the art of surgery.

    Leaving the curé's household service, Paré apprenticed himself to a barber-surgeon named Vialot, under whom he learnt to let blood, draw teeth, and perform the minor operations.  After four years' experience of this kind, he went to Paris to study at the school of anatomy and surgery, meanwhile maintaining himself by his trade of a barber.  He afterwards succeeded in obtaining an appointment as assistant at the Hôtel Dieu, where his conduct was so exemplary, and his progress so marked, that the chief surgeon, Goupil, entrusted him with the charge of the patients whom he could not himself attend to.  After the usual course of instruction, Paré was admitted a master barber-surgeon, and shortly after was appointed to a charge with the French army under Montmorenci in Piedmont.  Paré was not a man to follow in the ordinary ruts of his profession, but brought the resources of an ardent and original mind to bear upon his daily work, diligently thinking out for himself the rationale of diseases and their befitting remedies.  Before his time the wounded suffered much more at the hands of their surgeons than they did at those of their enemies.  To stop bleeding from gunshot wounds, the barbarous expedient was resorted to of dressing them with boiling oil.  Hæmorrhage was also stopped by searing the wounds with a red-hot iron; and when amputation was necessary, it was performed with a red-hot knife.  At first Paré treated wounds according to the approved methods; but, fortunately, on one occasion, running short of boiling oil, he substituted a mild and emollient application.  He was in great fear all night lest he should have done wrong in adopting this treatment; but was greatly relieved next morning on finding his patients comparatively comfortable, while those whose wounds had been treated in the usual way were writhing in torment.  Such was the casual origin of one of Paré's greatest improvements in the treatment of gunshot wounds; and he proceeded to adopt the emollient treatment in all future cases.  Another still more important improvement was his employment of the ligature in tying arteries to stop hæmorrhage, instead of the actual cautery.  Paré, however, met with the usual fate of innovators and reformers.  His practice was denounced by his surgical brethren as dangerous, unprofessional, and empirical; and the older surgeons banded themselves together to resist its adoption.  They reproached him for his want of education, more especially for his ignorance of Latin and Greek; and they assailed him with quotations from ancient writers, which he was unable either to verify or refute.  But the best answer to his assailants was the success of his practice.  The wounded soldiers called out everywhere for Paré, and he was always at their service: he tended them carefully and affectionately; and he usually took leave of them with the words, "I have dressed you; may God cure you."

    After three years' active service as army-surgeon, Paré returned to Paris with such a reputation that he was at once appointed surgeon in ordinary to the King.  When Metz was besieged by the Spanish army, under Charles V., the garrison suffered heavy loss, and the number of wounded was very great.  The surgeons were few and incompetent, and probably slew more by their bad treatment than the Spaniards did by the sword.  The Duke of Guise, who commanded the garrison, wrote to the King imploring him to send Paré to his help.  The courageous surgeon at once set out, and, after braving many dangers (to use his own words, "d'estre pendu, estranglé ou mis en pièces"), he succeeded in passing the enemy's lines, and entered Metz in safety.  The Duke, the generals, and the captains gave him an affectionate welcome; while the soldiers, when they heard of his arrival, cried, "We no longer fear dying of our wounds; our friend is among us."  In the following year Paré was in like manner with the besieged in the town of Hesdin, which shortly fell before the Duke of Savoy, and he was taken prisoner.  But having succeeded in curing one of the enemy's chief officers of a serious wound, he was discharged without ransom, and returned in safety to Paris.

    The rest of his life was occupied in study, in self-improvement, in piety, and in good deeds.  Urged by some of the most learnèd among his contemporaries, he placed on record the results of his surgical experience in twenty-eight books, which were published by him at different times.  His writings are valuable and remarkable chiefly on account of the great number of facts and cases contained in them, and the care with which he avoids giving any directions resting merely upon theory unsupported by observation.  Paré continued, though a Protestant, to hold the office of surgeon in ordinary to the King; and during the Massacre of St. Bartholomew he owed his life to the personal friendship of Charles IX., whom he had on one occasion saved from the dangerous effects of a wound inflicted by a clumsy surgeon in performing the operation of venesection.  Brantôme, in his 'Mémoires,' thus speaks of the King's rescue of Paré on the night of Saint Bartholomew—"He sent to fetch him, and to remain during the night in his chamber and wardrobe-room, commanding him not to stir, and saying that it was not reasonable that a man who had preserved the lives of so many people should himself be massacred."  Thus Paré escaped the horrors of that fearful night, which he survived for many years, and was permitted to die in peace, full of age and honours.

    Harvey was as indefatigable a labourer as any we have named.  He spent not less than eight long years of investigation and research before he published his views of the circulation of the blood.  He repeated and verified his experiments again and again, probably anticipating the opposition he would have to encounter from the profession on making known his discovery.  The tract in which he at length announced his views, was a most modest one,—but simple, perspicuous, and conclusive.  It was nevertheless received with ridicule, as the utterance of a crack-brained impostor.  For some time, he did not make a single convert, and gained nothing but contumely and abuse.  He had called in question the revered authority of the ancients; and it was even averred that his views were calculated to subvert the authority of the Scriptures and undermine the very foundations of morality and religion.  His little practice fell away, and he was left almost without a friend.  This lasted for some years, until the great truth, held fast by Harvey amidst all his adversity, and which had dropped into many thoughtful minds, gradually ripened by further observation, and after a period of about twenty-five years, it became generally recognised as an established scientific truth.

    The difficulties encountered by Dr. Jenner in promulgating and establishing his discovery of vaccination as a preventive of small-pox, were even greater than those of Harvey.  Many, before him, had witnessed the cow-pox, and had heard of the report current among the milkmaids in Gloucestershire, that whoever had taken that disease was secure against small-pox.  It was a trifling, vulgar rumour, supposed to have no significance whatever; and no one had thought it worthy of investigation, until it was accidentally brought under the notice of Jenner.  He was a youth, pursuing his studies at Sodbury, when his attention was arrested by the casual observation made by a country girl who came to his master's shop for advice.  The small-pox was mentioned, when the girl said, "I can't take that disease, for I have had cow-pox."  The observation immediately riveted Jenner's attention, and he forthwith set about inquiring and making observations on the subject.  His professional friends, to whom he mentioned his views as to the prophylactic virtues of cow-pox, laughed at him, and even threatened to expel him from their society, if he persisted in harassing them with the subject.  In London he was so fortunate as to study under John Hunter, to whom he communicated his views.  The advice of the great anatomist was thoroughly characteristic: "Don't think, but try; be patient, be accurate."  Jenner's courage was supported by the advice, which conveyed to him the true art of philosophical investigation.  He went back to the country to practise his profession and make observations and experiments, which he continued to pursue for a period of twenty years.  His faith in his discovery was so implicit that he vaccinated his own son on three several occasions.  At length he published his views in a quarto of about seventy pages, in which he gave the details of twenty-three cases of successful vaccination of individuals, to whom it was found afterwards impossible to communicate the small-pox either by contagion or inoculation.  It was in 1798 that this treatise was published; though he had been working out his ideas since the year 1775, when they had begun to assume a definite form.

 


In this cartoon, the British satirist James Gillray caricatured a vaccination scene at the Smallpox and Inoculation Hospital at St. Pancras, showing Edward Jenner vaccinating frightened young women, and cows emerging from different parts of people's bodies. The cartoon was inspired by the controversy over inoculating against the dreaded disease, smallpox. The inoculation agent, cowpox vaccine, was rumoured to have the ability to sprout cow-like appendages. A serene Edward Jenner stands amid the crowd. A boy next to Jenner holds a container labelled "VACCINE POCK hot from ye COW"; papers in the boy's pocket are labelled "Benefits of the Vaccine". The tub on the desk next to Jenner is labelled "OPENING MIXTURE". A bottle next to the tub is labelled "VOMIT". The painting on the wall depicts worshippers of the Golden Calf.

In 1979, the World Health Organization declared smallpox an eradicated disease.


Picture and caption: Wikipedia.


    How was the discovery received?  First with indifference, then with active hostility.  Jenner proceeded to London to exhibit to the profession the process of vaccination and its results; but not a single medical man could be induced to make trial of it, and after fruitlessly waiting for nearly three months, he returned to his native village.  He was even caricatured and abused for his attempt to "bestialize" his species by the introduction into their systems of diseased matter from the cow's udder.  Vaccination was denounced from the pulpit as "diabolical."  It was averred that vaccinated children became "ox-faced," that abscesses broke out to "indicate sprouting horns," and that the countenance was gradually "transmuted into the visage of a cow, the voice into the bellowing of bulls."  Vaccination, however, was a truth, and notwithstanding the violence of the opposition, belief in it spread slowly.  In one village, where a gentleman tried to introduce the practice, the first persons who permitted themselves to be vaccinated were absolutely pelted and driven into their houses if they appeared out of doors.  Two ladies of title—Lady Ducie and the Countess of Berkeley—to their honour be it remembered—had the courage to vaccinate their children; and the prejudices of the day were at once broken through.  The medical profession gradually came round, and there were several who even sought to rob Dr. Jenner of the merit of the discovery, when its importance came to be recognised.  Jenner's cause at last triumphed, and he was publicly honoured and rewarded.  In his prosperity he was as modest as he had been in his obscurity.  He was invited to settle in London, and told that he might command a practice of £10,000 a year.  But his answer was, "No!  In the morning of my days I have sought the sequestered and lowly paths of life--the valley, and not the mountain,—and now, in the evening of my days, it is not meet for me to hold myself up as an object for fortune and for fame."  During Jenner's own life-time the practice of vaccination became adopted all over the civilized world; and when he died, his title as a Benefactor of his kind was recognised far and wide.  Cuvier has said, "If vaccine were the only discovery of the epoch, it would serve to render it illustrious for ever; yet it knocked twenty times in vain at the doors of the Academies."

    Not less patient, resolute, and persevering was Sir Charles Bell in the prosecution of his discoveries relating to the nervous system.  Previous to his time, the most confused notions prevailed as to the functions of the nerves, and this branch of study was little more advanced than it had been in the times of Democritus and Anaxagoras three thousand years before.  Sir Charles Bell, in the valuable series of papers the publication of which was commenced in 1821, took an entirely original view of the subject, based upon a long series of careful, accurate, and oft-repeated experiments.  Elaborately tracing the development of the nervous system up from the lowest order of animated being, to man —the lord of the animal kingdom,—he displayed it, to use his own words, " as plainly as if it were written in our mother-tongue."  His discovery consisted in the fact, that the spinal nerves are double in their function, and arise by double roots from the spinal marrow,—volition being conveyed by that part of the nerves springing from the one root, and sensation by the other.  The subject occupied the mind of Sir Charles Bell for a period of forty years, when, in 1840, he laid his last paper before the Royal Society.  As in the cases of Harvey and Jenner, when he had lived down the ridicule and opposition with which his views were first received, and their truth came to be recognised, numerous claims for priority in making the discovery were set up at home and abroad.  Like them, too, he lost practice by the publication of his papers; and he left it on record that, after every step in his discovery, he was obliged to work harder than ever to preserve his reputation as a practitioner.  The great merits of Sir Charles Bell were, however, at length fully recognised; and Cuvier himself, when on his death-bed, finding his face distorted and drawn to one side, pointed out the symptom to his attendants as a proof of the correctness of Sir Charles Bell's theory.

    An equally devoted pursuer of the same branch of science was the late Dr. Marshall Hall, whose name posterity will rank with those of Harvey, Hunter, Jenner, and Bell.  During the whole course of his long and useful life he was a most careful and minute observer; and no fact, however apparently insignificant, escaped his attention.  His important discovery of the diastaltic nervous system, by which his name will long will long be known amongst scientific men, originated in an exceedingly simple circumstance.  When investigating the pneumonic circulation in the Triton, the decapitated object lay upon the table; and on separating the tail and accidentally pricking the external integument, he observed that it moved with energy, and became contorted into various forms.  He had not touched a muscle or a muscular nerve; what then was the nature of these movements?  The same phenomena had probably been often observed before, but Dr. Hall was the first to apply himself perseveringly to the investigation of their causes; and he exclaimed on the occasion, "I will never rest satisfied until I have found all this out, and made it clear."  His attention to the subject was almost incessant; and it is estimated that in the course of his life he devoted not less than 25,000 hours to its experimental and chemical investigation.  He was at the same time carrying on an extensive private practice, and officiating as lecturer at St. Thomas's Hospital and other Medical Schools.  It will scarcely be credited that the paper in which he embodied his discovery was rejected by the Royal Society, and was only accepted after the lapse of seventeen years, when the truth of his views had become acknowledged by scientific men both at home and abroad.

    The life of Sir William Herschel affords another remarkable illustration of the force of perseverance in another branch of science.  His father was a poor German musician, who brought up his four sons to the same calling.  William came over to England to seek his fortune, and he joined the band of the Durham Militia, in which he played the oboe.  The regiment was lying at Doncaster, where Dr. Miller first became acquainted with Herschel, having heard him perform a solo on the violin in a surprising manner.  The Doctor entered into conversation with the youth, and was so pleased with him, that he urged him to leave the militia and take up his residence at his house for a time.  Herschel did so, and while at Doncaster was principally occupied in violin-playing at concerts, availing himself of the advantages of Dr. Miller's library to study at his leisure hours.  A new organ having been built for the parish church of Halifax, an organist was advertised for, on which Herschel applied for the office, and was selected.  Leading the wandering life of an artist, he was next attracted to Bath, where he played in the Pump-room band, and also officiated as organist in the Octagon chapel.  Some recent discoveries in astronomy having arrested his mind, and awakened in him a powerful spirit of curiosity, he sought and obtained from a friend the loan of a two-foot Gregorian telescope.  So fascinated was the poor musician by the science, that he even thought of purchasing a telescope, but the price asked by the London optician was so alarming, that he determined to make one.  Those who know what a reflecting telescope is, and the skill which is required to prepare the concave metallic speculum which forms the most important part of the apparatus, will be able to form some idea of the difficulty of this undertaking.  Nevertheless, Herschel succeeded, after long and painful labour, in completing a five-foot reflector, with which he had the gratification of observing the ring and satellites of Saturn.  Not satisfied with his triumph, he proceeded to make other instruments in succession, of seven, ten, and even twenty feet.  In constructing the seven-foot reflector, he finished no fewer than two hundred specula before he produced one that would bear any power that was applied to it,—a striking instance of the persevering laboriousness of the man.  While gauging the heavens with his instruments, he continued patiently to earn his bread by piping to the fashionable frequenters of the Pump-room.  So eager was he in his astronomical observations, that he would steal away from the room during an interval of the performance, give a little turn at his telescope, and contentedly return to his oboe.  Thus working away, Herschel discovered the Georgium Sidus, the orbit and rate of motion of which he carefully calculated, and sent the result to the Royal Society; when the humble oboe player found himself at once elevated from obscurity to fame.  He was shortly after appointed Astronomer Royal, and by the kindness of George III. was placed in a position of honourable competency for life.  He bore his honours with the same meekness and humility which had distinguished him in the days of his obscurity.  So gentle and patient, and withal so distinguished and successful a follower of science under difficulties, perhaps cannot be found in the entire history of biography.

 

Replica of the telescope with which Herschel discovered Uranus. [p.144]
Picture: Wikipedia.


    The career of William Smith, the father of English geology, though perhaps less known, is not less interesting and instructive as an example of patient and laborious effort, and the diligent cultivation of opportunities.  He was born in 1769, the son of a yeoman farmer at Churchill, in Oxfordshire.  His father dying when he was but a child, he received a very sparing education at the village school, and even that was to a considerable extent interfered with by his wandering and somewhat idle habits as a boy.  His mother having married a second time, he was taken in charge by an uncle, also a farmer, by whom he was brought up.  Though the uncle was by no means pleased with the boy's love of wandering about, collecting "poundstones," "pundips," and other stony curiosities which lay scattered about the adjoining land, he yet enabled him to purchase a few of the necessary books wherewith to instruct himself in the rudiments of geometry and surveying; for the boy was already destined for the business of a land-surveyor.  One of his marked characteristics, even as a youth, was the accuracy and keenness of his observation; and what he once clearly saw he never forgot.  He began to draw, attempted to colour, and practised the arts of mensuration and surveying, all without regular instruction; and by his efforts in self-culture, he shortly became so proficient, that he was taken on as assistant to a local surveyor of ability in the neighbourhood.  In carrying on his business he was constantly under the necessity of traversing Oxfordshire and the adjoining counties.  One of the first things he seriously pondered over, was the position of the various soils and strata that came under his notice on the lands which he surveyed or travelled over; more especially the position of the red earth in regard to the lias and superincumbent rocks.  The surveys of numerous collieries which he was called upon to make, gave him further experience; and already, when only twenty-three years of age, he contemplated making a model of the strata of the earth.
 

WILLIAM SMITH LL.D. (1769-1839):
English geologist, he produced the first
geological map of England.  Picture: Wikipedia.

    While engaged in levelling for a proposed canal in Gloucestershire, the idea of a general law occurred to him relating to the strata of that district.  He conceived that the strata lying above the coal were not laid horizontally, but inclined, and in one direction, towards the east; resembling, on a large scale, "the ordinary appearance of superposed slices of bread and butter."  The correctness of this theory he shortly after confirmed by observations of the strata in two parallel valleys, the "red ground," "lias," and "freestone" or "oolite," being found to come down in an eastern direction, and to sink below the level, yielding place to the next in succession.  He was shortly enabled to verify the truth of his views on a larger scale, having been appointed to examine personally into the management of canals in England and Wales.  During his journeys, which extended from Bath to Newcastle-on-Tyne, returning by Shropshire and Wales, his keen eyes were never idle for a moment.  He rapidly noted the aspect and structure of the country through which he passed with his companions, treasuring up his observations for future use.  His geologic vision was so acute, that though the road along which he passed from York to Newcastle in the post chaise was from five to fifteen miles distant from the hills of chalk and oolite on the east, he was satisfied as to their nature, by their contours and relative position, and their ranges on the surface in relation to the lias and "red ground" occasionally seen on the road.

    The general results of his observation seem to have been these.  He noted that the rocky masses of country in the western parts of England generally inclined to the east and south-east; that the red sandstones and marls above the coal measures passed beneath the lias, clay, and limestone, that these again passed beneath the sands, yellow limestones and clays, forming the table-land of the Cotswold Hills, while these in turn passed beneath the great chalk deposits occupying the eastern parts of England.  He further observed, that each layer of clay, sand, and limestone held its own peculiar classes of fossils; and pondering much on these things, he at length came to the then unheard-of conclusion, that each distinct deposit of marine animals, in these several strata, indicated a distinct sea-bottom, and that each layer of clay, sand, chalk, and stone, marked a distinct epoch of time in the history of the earth.

    This idea took firm possession of his mind, and be could talk and think of nothing else.  At canal boards, at sheep-shearings, at county meetings, and at agricultural associations, 'Strata Smith,' as he came to be called, was always running over with the subject that possessed him.  He had indeed made a great discovery, though he was as yet a man utterly unknown in the scientific world.  He proceeded to project a map of the stratification of England; but was for some time deterred from proceeding with it, being fully occupied in carrying out the works of the Somersetshire coal canal, which engaged him for a period of about six years.  He continued, nevertheless, to be unremitting in his observation of facts; and he became so expert in apprehending the internal structure of a district and detecting the lie of the strata from its external configuration, that he was often consulted respecting the drainage of extensive tracts of land, in which, guided by his geological knowledge, he proved remarkably successful, and acquired an extensive reputation.

    One day, when looking over the cabinet collection of fossils belonging to the Rev. Samuel Richardson, at Bath, Smith astonished his friend by suddenly disarranging his classification, and re-arranging the fossils in their strati-graphical, order, saying—"These came from the blue lias, these from the over-lying sand and freestone, these from the fuller's earth, and these from the Bath building stone."  A new light flashed upon Mr. Richardson's mind, and he shortly became a convert to and believer in William Smith's doctrine.  The geologists of the day were not, however, so easily convinced; and it was scarcely to be tolerated that an unknown land-surveyor should pretend to teach them the science of geology.  But William Smith had an eye and mind to penetrate deep beneath the skin of the earth; he saw its very fibre and skeleton, and, as it were, divined its organization.  His knowledge of the strata in the neighbourhood of Bath was so accurate, that one evening, when dining at the house of the Rev. Joseph Townsend, he dictated to Mr. Richardson the different strata according to their order of succession in descending order, twenty-three in number, commencing with the chalk and descending in continuous series down to the coal, below which the strata were not then sufficiently determined.  To this was added a list of the more remarkable fossils which had been gathered in the several layers of rock.  This was printed and extensively circulated in 1801.

    He next determined to trace out the strata through districts as remote from Bath as his means would enable him to reach.  For years he journeyed to and fro, sometimes on foot, sometimes on horseback, riding on the tops of stage coaches, often making up by night-travelling the time he had lost by day, so as not to fail in his ordinary business engagements.  When he was professionally called away to any distance from home—as, for instance, when travelling from Bath to Holkham, in Norfolk, to direct the irrigation and drainage of Mr. Coke's land in that county—he rode on horseback, making frequent detours from the road to note the geological features of the country which he traversed.

    For several years he was thus engaged in his journeys to distant quarters in England and Ireland, to the extent of upwards of ten thousand miles yearly; and it was amidst this incessant and laborious travelling, that he contrived to commit to paper his fast-growing generalizations on what he rightly regarded as a new science.  No observation, howsoever trivial it might appear, was neglected, and no opportunity of collecting fresh facts was overlooked.  Whenever he could, he possessed himself of records of borings, natural and artificial sections, drew them to a constant scale of eight yards to the inch, and coloured them up.  Of his keenness of observation take the following illustration.  When making one of his geological excursions about the country near Woburn, as he was drawing near to the foot of the Dunstable chalk hills, he observed to his companion, "If there be any broken ground about the foot of these hills, we may find shark's teeth;" and they had not proceeded far, before they picked up six from the white bank of a new fence-ditch.  As he afterwards said of himself, "The habit of observation crept on me, gained a settlement in my mind, became a constant associate of my life, and started up in activity at the first thought of a journey; so that I generally went off well prepared with maps, and sometimes with contemplations on its objects, or on those on the road, reduced to writing before it commenced.  My mind was, therefore, like the canvas of a painter, well prepared for the first and best impressions."

    Notwithstanding his courageous and indefatigable industry, many circumstances contributed to prevent the promised publication of William Smith's 'Map of the Strata of England and Wales,' and it was not until 1814 that he was enabled, by the assistance of some friends, to give to the world the fruits of his twenty years' incessant labour.  To prosecute his inquiries, and collect the extensive series of facts and observations requisite for his purpose, he had to expend the whole of the profits of his professional labours during that period; and he even sold off his small property to provide the means of visiting remoter parts of the island.  Meanwhile he had entered on a quarrying speculation near Bath, which proved unsuccessful, and he was under the necessity of selling his geological collection (which was purchased by the British Museum), his furniture and library, reserving only his papers, maps, and sections, which were useless save to himself.  He bore his losses and misfortunes with exemplary fortitude; and amidst all, he went on working with cheerful courage and untiring patience.  He died at Northampton, in August, 1839, while on his way to attend the meeting of the British Association at Birmingham.

    It is difficult to speak in terms of too high praise of the first geological map of England, which we owe to the industry of this courageous man of science.  An accomplished writer says of it, "It was a work so masterly in conception and so correct in general outline, that in principle it served as a basis not only for the production of later maps of the British Islands, but for geological maps of all other parts of the world, wherever they have been undertaken.  In the apartments of the Geological Society Smith's map may yet be seen—a great historical document, old and worn, calling for renewal of its faded tints.  Let any one conversant with the subject compare it with later works on a similar scale, and he will find that in all essential features it will not suffer by the comparison—the intricate anatomy of the Silurian rocks of Wales and the north of England by Murchison and Sedgwick being the chief additions made to his great generalizations." [p.149]  The genius of the Oxfordshire surveyor did not fail to be duly recognised and honoured by men of science during his lifetime.  In 1831 the Geological Society of London awarded to him the Wollaston medal, "in consideration of his being a great original discoverer in English geology, and especially for his being the first in this country to discover and to teach the identification of strata, and to determine their succession by means of their imbedded fossils."  William Smith, in his simple, earnest way, gained for himself a name as lasting as the science he loved so well.  To use the words of the writer above quoted, "Till the manner as well as the fact of the first appearance of successive forms of life shall be solved, it is not easy to surmise how any discovery can be made in geology equal in value to that which we owe to the genius of William Smith."

    Hugh Miller was a man of like observant faculties, who studied literature as well as science with zeal and success.  The book in which he has told the story of his life, ('My Schools and Schoolmasters'), is extremely interesting, and calculated to be eminently useful.  It is the history of the formation of a truly noble character in the humblest condition of life; and inculcates most powerfully the lessons of self-help, self-respect, and self-dependence.  While Hugh was but a child, his father, who was a sailor, was drowned at sea, and he was brought up by his widowed mother.  He had a school training after a sort, but his best teachers were the boys with whom he played, the men amongst whom he worked, the friends and relatives with whom he lived.  He read much and miscellaneously, and picked up odd sorts of knowledge from many quarters,—from workmen, carpenters, fishermen and sailors, and above all, from the old boulders strewed along the shores of the Cromarty Frith.  With a big hammer which had belonged to his great-grandfather, an old buccaneer, the boy went about chipping the stones, and accumulating specimens of mica, porphyry, garnet, and such like.  Sometimes he had a day in the woods, and there, too, the boy's attention was excited by the peculiar geological curiosities which came in his way.  While searching among the rocks on the beach, he was sometimes asked, in irony, by the farm servants who came to load their carts with sea-weed, whether he "was gettin' siller in the stanes," but was so unlucky as never to be able to answer in the affirmative.  When of a suitable age he was apprenticed to the trade of his choice—that of a working stonemason; and he began his labouring career in a quarry looking out upon the Cromarty Frith.  This quarry proved one of his best schools.  The remarkable geological formations which it displayed awakened his curiosity.  The bar of deep-red stone beneath, and the bar of pale-red clay above, were noted by the young quarryman, who even in such unpromising subjects found matter for observation and reflection.  Where other men saw nothing, he detected analogies, differences, and peculiarities, which set him a-thinking.  He simply kept his eyes and his mind open; was sober, diligent, and persevering; and this was the secret of his intellectual growth.

    His curiosity was excited and kept alive by the curious organic remains, principally of old and extinct species of fishes, ferns, and ammonites, which were revealed along the coast by the washings of the waves, or were exposed by the stroke of his mason's hammer.  He never lost sight of the subject; but went on accumulating observations and comparing formations, until at length, many years afterwards, when no longer a working mason, he gave to the world his highly interesting work on the Old Red Sandstone, which at once established his reputation as a scientific geologist.  But this work was the fruit of long years of patient observation and research.  As he modestly states in his autobiography, "the only merit to which I lay claim in the case is that of patient research—a merit in which whoever wills may rival or surpass me; and this humble faculty of patience, when rightly developed, may lead to more extraordinary developments of idea than even genius itself."

    The late John Brown, the eminent English geologist, was, like Miller, a stonemason in his early life, serving an apprenticeship to the trade at Colchester, and afterwards working as a journeyman mason at Norwich.  He began business as a builder on his own account at Colchester, whereby frugality and industry he secured a competency.  It was while working at his trade that his attention was first drawn to the study of fossils and shells; and he proceeded to make a collection of them, which afterwards grew into one of the finest in England.  His researches along the coasts of Essex, Kent, and Sussex brought to light some magnificent remains of the elephant and rhinoceros, the most valuable of which were presented by him to the British Museum.  During the last few years of his life he devoted considerable attention to the study of the Foraminifera in chalk, respecting which he made several interesting discoveries.  His life was useful, happy, and honoured; and he died at Stanway, in Essex, in November 1859, at the ripe age of eighty years.
 

SIR RODERICK MURCHISON F.R.S. (1792-1871):
Scottish Geologist.
Picture: Wikipedia.

    Not long ago, Sir Roderick Murchison discovered at Thurso, in the far north of Scotland, a profound geologist, in the person of a baker there, named Robert Dick.  When Sir Roderick called upon him at the bakehouse in which he baked and earned his bread, Robert Dick delineated to him, by means of flour upon the board, the geographical features and geological phenomena of his native county, pointing out the imperfections in the existing maps, which he had ascertained by travelling over the country in his leisure hours.  On further inquiry, Sir Roderick ascertained that the humble individual before him was not only a capital baker and geologist, but a first-rate botanist.  "I found," said the President of the Geographical Society, "to my great humiliation that the baker knew infinitely more of botanical science, ay, ten times more, than I did; and that there were only some twenty or thirty specimens of flowers which he had not collected.  Some he had obtained as presents, some he had purchased, but the greater portion had been accumulated by his industry, in his native county of Caithness; and the specimens were all arranged in the most beautiful order, with their scientific names affixed."

    Sir Roderick Murchison himself is an illustrious follower of these and kindred branches of science.  A writer in the 'Quarterly Review' cites him as a "singular instance of a man who, having passed the early part of his life as a soldier, never having had the advantage, or disadvantage as the case might have been, of a scientific training, instead of remaining a fox-hunting country gentleman, has succeeded by his own native vigour and sagacity, untiring industry and zeal, in making for himself a scientific reputation that is as wide as it is likely to be lasting.  He took first of all an unexplored and difficult district at home, and, by the labour of many years, examined its rock-formations, classed them in natural groups, assigned to each its characteristic assemblage of fossils, and was the first to decipher two great chapters in the world's geological history, which must always henceforth carry his name on their title-page.  Not only so, but he applied the knowledge thus acquired to the dissection of large districts, both at home and abroad, so as to become the geological discoverer of great countries which had formerly been 'terræ incognitæ.'"  But Sir Roderick Murchison is not merely a geologist.  His indefatigable labours in many branches of knowledge have contributed to render him among the most accomplished and complete of scientific men.


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