Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the painters, Professor Lee the Orientalist, and John Gibson the sculptor.

From the weaver class have sprung Simpson the mathematician, Bacon the sculptor, the two Milners, Adam Walker, John Foster, Wilson the ornithologist, Dr. Livingstone the missionary traveller, and Tannahill the poet. Shoemakers have given us Sir Cloudesley Shovel the great Admiral, Sturgeon the electrician, Samuel Drew the essayist, Gifford the editor of the "Quarterly Review," Bloomfield the poet, and William Carey the missionary; whilst Morrison, another laborious missionary, was a maker of shoe-lasts. Within the last year, a profound naturalist has been discovered in the person of a shoemaker at Banff, named Thomas Edwards, who, while maintaining himself by his trade, has devoted his leisure to the study of natural science in all its branches, his researches in connection with the smaller crustaceæ having been rewarded by the discovery of a new species, to which the name of "Praniza Edwardsii" has been given by naturalists.

Nor have tailors been altogether undistinguished, Jackson the painter having worked at that trade until he reached manhood. But, what is perhaps more remarkable, one of the gallantest of British seamen, Admiral Hobson, who broke the boom at Vigo, in 1702, originally belonged to this calling. He was working as a tailor's apprentice near Bonchurch, in the Isle of Wight, when the news flew through the village, that a squadron of men-of-war were sailing off the island. He sprang from the shopboard, and ran down with his comrades to the beach, to gaze upon the glorious sight. The tailor-boy was suddenly inflamed with the ambition to be a sailor; and springing into a boat, he rowed off to the squadron, gained the admiral's ship, and was accepted as a volun

26

ROBERT DICK, THE GEOLOGIST.

CHAP. I.

teer. Years after, he returned to his native village full of honors, and dined off bacon and eggs in the cottage where he had worked as a tailor's apprentice.

Cardinal Wolsey, Defoe, Akenside, and Kirke White, were the sons of butchers; Bunyan was a tinker, and Joseph Lancaster a basket-maker. Among the great names identified with the invention of the steam-engine are those of Newcomen, Watt, and Stephenson; the first a blacksmith, the second a maker of mathematical instruments, and the third an engine-fireman. Huntingdon the preacher was originally a coal-heaver, and Bewick the father of wood-engraving, a coal-miner. Dodsley was a footman, and Holcroft a groom. Baffin the navigator began his seafaring career as a man before the mast, and Sir Cloudesley Shovel as a cabin-boy. Herschel played the oboe in a military band. Chantrey was a journeyman carver, Etty a journeyman printer, and Sir Thomas Lawrence the son of a tavern-keeper. Michael Faraday, the son of a poor blacksmith, was in early life apprenticed to a bookbinder, and worked at that trade until he reached his twenty-second year; he now occupies the very first rank as a philosopher, excelling even his master, Sir Humphry Davy, in the art of lucidly expounding the most difficult and abstruse points in natural science.

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 a 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 Director-General of the Geographical Society, "to my great humiliation, that this baker knew infinitely more of botanical science, aye, 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."

It is the glory of our country that men such as these should so abound; not all equally distinguished, it is true, but penetrated alike by the noble spirit of self-help. They furnish proofs of cheerful, honest working, and energetic effort to make the most of small means and common opportunities. For opportunities, as we shall afterwards find, fall in the way of every man who is resolved to take advantage of them. The facts of nature are open to the peasant and mechanic, as well as to the philosopher, and by nature they are alike capable of making a moral use of those facts to the best of their power. Thus, even in the lowliest calling, the true worker may win the very loftiest results.

The instances of men in this country who, by dint of persevering application and energy, have raised themselves from the humblest ranks of industry to eminent positions of usefulness and influence in society, are indeed so numerous that they have long ceased to be regarded as exceptional. Looking at some of the more

28

JOSEPH BROTHERTON.

CHAP. I.

remarkable instances, it might almost be said that early encounter with difficulty and adverse circumstances was the necessary and indispensable condition of success. The House of Commons has always contained a considerable number of such self-raised men, fitting representatives of the industrial character of the British people; and it is to the credit of our legislature that such men have received due honor there. When the late Joseph Brotherton, member for Salford, in the course of the discussion on the Ten Hours' Bill, detailed with true pathos the hardships and fatigues to which he had been subjected when working as a factory boy in a cotton-mill, and described the resolution which he had then formed, that if ever it was in his power he would endeavor to ameliorate the condition of that class, Sir James Graham rose immediately after him, and declared, amidst the cheers of the House, that he did not before know that Mr. Brotherton's origin had been so humble, but that it rendered him more proud than he had ever before been of the House of Commons, to think that a person risen from that condition should be able to sit side by side, on equal terms, with the hereditary gentry of the land.

There is a member of the present House of Commons, whom we have heard introducing his recollections of past times with the words, "When I was working as a weaver boy at Norwich;" and there are many more who have sprung from conditions equally humble. But perhaps the most interesting story of difficulties encountered and overcome by manful struggle, is that of the present member for Sunderland, Mr. W. S. Lindsay, the well-known shipowner. It was told by himself, in his own simple words, to the electors of Weymouth some years ago, in

answer to an attack which had been made upon him by his political opponents. At the age of fourteen, he said, he had been left, an orphan boy, to push his way in the world. He left Glasgow for Liverpool with only four shillings and sixpence in his pocket; and so poor was he that the captain of a steamer had pity on him, and had told him that he would give him his passage if he would trim the coals in the coal-hole. He did so, and thus worked his passage. He remembered that the fireman gave him a part of his homely dinner, and never did he eat a dinner with such relish, for he felt that he had worked for it and earned it; and he wished the young to listen to his statement, for he himself had derived a lesson from that voyage which he had never forgotten. At Liverpool, he remained for seven weeks before he could get employment; he abode in sheds, and his four and sixpence maintained him, until at last he found shelter in a West Indiaman. He entered as a boy, and before he was nineteen he had risen to the command

of an Indiaman. At twenty-three he retired from the sea; his friends, who when he wanted assistance had given him none, having left him that which they could no longer keep. He settled on shore; his career had been rapid; he had acquired prosperity by close industry, by constant work, and by keeping ever in view the great principle of doing to others as you would be done by.

But the same characteristic feature of energetic industry happily has its counterpart amongst the other ranks of the community. The middle and well-to-do classes are constantly throwing out vigorous offshoots in all directions, in science, commerce, and art,—thus adding effectively to the working power of the country. Probably the very greatest name in English philosophy is that of Sir

-

« AnteriorContinuar »