Графични страници
PDF файл
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

"They thought I was in the hold," he said, "did n't they? but I was hiding nnder the captain's sofa all the time, and there flay till I was sure they were gone. The vessel's filling fast, Captain Kiteon; there is no time to lose. Hurrah!"

"It is quite true," said the purser, as he returned from below with the captain. "We have one hour, no more, to rig a raft in, so to it, my lads, with a will. The leak's too far gone, and we 've not hands enough to make the pumps tell on it"

The men were shaking hands all round, intoxicated with joy at their escape.

"Come, men, enough of that. I "m a plain man, and what I say I mean," said the captain, already himself. "We 're not out of the wood yet, so don't holler. Come, set to at the rail, and get all the biscuits and junk those villains have left. I shall be the last man to leave the wessel. I sha'n't leave her at all, till she begins to settle down. Purser, get some sails for tents. Quartermaster, you look to the grub. Harrison, you collect the spars for the men; Davis, you see the work is strong and sure. It is n't the coast I should choose to land on; but any port in a storm, you know; and, purser, you get two or three muskets and some powder and shot. We may have to live on sea-birds for a day or two, till God sends us deliverance, death, or a ship; that is our alternative. Come, to work."

The raft was made in no time. But the stores proved scanty. The scoundrel mate had thrown overboard, spoiled, or carried off all but three days' provision of meat, biscuit, and rum. The captain had almost to be forced from the vessel. They had not got half a mile away when the great ice-pack closed upon it, just as she was sinking. As the Shooting Star slowly settled down, Captain Ritson took off his cap and stood for a moment barebeaded.

"There," said he, " goes as good a wessel as ever passed the Mersey lights; as long as she floated she 'd have done Messrs. David and Blizzard credit."

"Good by, old Shooting Star," said the men. "If ever a man deserved the gallows, it's that first mate of ours."

The raft reached the shore safely.

"I take possession of this 'ere floating pack," said the captain, good-humoredly, to keep up the men's spirits, as he leaped on the ice, " in the name of her blessed Majesty, and I beg to christen it Ritson's Island, if it is an island; but if it is joined on to the mainland, we 'll wait and see what the mainland is. I wonder if there are many bears, or puffins, or white foxes, on it And now let's rig the tents, and then we'll measure out the food."

The next day brought no hope. The pack proved to be of enormous size, and a deep ice-fog prevented its complete exploration. The food was fast decreasing. The few penguins on the pack would not come within shot Once they saw a white bear, but it dived, and appeared no more. The men's hearts began to sink; half the spars had been used up for the fires; one day more and the fuel would be gone; the rum gone; the meat gone. Frost and starvation awaited them. There were now murmurs. Once the captain came on two of the sailors who were crying like children; another time he observed the men's fierce and hungry looks, as they watched the quartermaster cowering under the tent, and he knew too well what those savage fires in their hollow eyes indicated.

"Ir n.u-t come to the casting of lots for one of

us," he heard them whisper. "Every hour we can pull on gets us more chance of a ship."

The next day the purser shot twopenguins, and ate greedily of the nauseous flesh. The fourth day the provisions were exhausted at the first meal. Then Captain Ritson stood up, his musket in his hand, for he had all this time kept watch at night like the other men, and shared every labor and privation. The quartermaster was lamenting his fate.

"If this voyage had only turned out well," he said, "I might have got a ship again; for the firm promised me a ship again if I only kept from drink and did my dnty; and this time I have done it by them, and I should have saved the vessel if it had n't been for this mutiny."

Captain Ritson began, —

"Mr. Quartermaster, silence. This is no time for crying over spilt milk. I don't wish to hurt your feelings, for you 're an honest man, though you sometimes rather overdid the grog. I 'm a plain man, and I mean what I say, and what I say is this, — here we are, and we don't know whether it is berg or mainland, and no food left, — not a crumb. Now, what is to be done? We hear the bear growl, and the fox yelp; but if we can't shoot them, that won't help us much. We must spend all to-day in trying for the mainland; if we find the sea to the eastward, we must then turn back, commit ourselves to God, who directs all things in the heavens above and the earth beneath (you all heard me read that on Sunday, and I need n't repeat it), and take to the raft, whatever happens. But there's one thing I have to say, as a plain man, and that is, — if any coward here dares even whisper the word ' cannibalism,' I 'll shoot him dead with this gun I hold in my hand, and mean to hold day and night. We are Christian men, mind; and no misery shall make wild beasts of us, while I am a live captain, — so mind that."

The exploration destroyed the men's last hope. The mile's painful march only served to prove that wide tracts of sea, full of shaking ice, lay between the pack and the shore.

"I see something ahead like a man's body," said the purser, who had volunteered to climb an eminence, and report if any vessel could be discerned. "It is partly covered with snow, and it lies on the edge of a deep hole in the ice."

The party instantly made for it. Harrison, being light of foot, was the first to reach it, and to shout,—

"O captain 1 captain! come here! it's Phillips, the carpenter, that went away with the mate."

And so it was. They all recognized the hard bad face. An empty bottle lay by the body.

"I see it all," said the captain. - He got drunk, he lagged behind, and they lost him in the fog. Some vessel has taken them off."

"I wish it had been the mate," said the purser.

As he spoke, a huge black head emerged for a moment from the water, and all the men fell back and cried it was the Devil come for the carpenter.

"Nonsense, you flock of geese," said the captain; "it was only a black seal. I only wish he 'd show again, and we 'd have a shot at him; he 'd keep us for two days. Now then, push on, for we must get on the raft and into the open sea before dark, and the Lord guide and help us."

Slowly and silently the melancholy band, with only two sound-hearted men left among them, the captain and the purser, ascended the last snow hill leading to the shore, where the raft and the tents had been left six hours before. The sun, a globe of crimson fire, was setting behind banks of gray and ominous mist. Two of the men were now frostbitten in the cheeks, and lay down to be rubbed with snow by their companions.

The captain strode forward alone to the top of the hill to reconnoitre. He was seen by them all striding forward till he reached the summit, but slowly now, for that giant of a man was faint with hunger and fatigue. The men sat down waiting for him to return, and rubbing themselves with snow. He returned slower than he had ascended, feeble and silent. He did not look his companions straight in the face, but wrung his hands, pulled his sou'wester over his eyes, and sat down by the tired men. Then he rose gravely, with his old impregnable courage, and said,—

"Men, I bring you bad news; but bear it like Christians. It's all sent for a good purpose. Our raft has been carried off by a flow of drift ice. We have only a few hours to live. I 'm a plain man, and mean what I say. Let us die with a good heart, and without repining. It is not our own fault as to this"

Two of the men uttered yells of despair, and threw themselves on the ground; the rest seemed to actually grow smaller, and shrink together in their hopeless despair. The purser rocked to and fro, holding his head between his hands. The quartermaster shook with the cold, and turned purple with fear. The boy burst into an agony of tears.

"Come, men, let us light a fire," said Captain Ritson. "We are not women. Let us collect any remaining wood, and, having prayed together and committed ourselves into His hands (the captain took off his hat and looked upwards), let us sleep, and in that sleep, if it is His will, death will take us."

But nothing could rouse them now. The purser, and the purser only, had strength enough left to collect the few pieces of driftwood outside the tents. It was like digging one's own grave, as the night began to fall, and shut out the white cliffs and desolate tracts of ice.

"Light it, Pennant," said the captain, " while we kneel round and commit ourselves to Him who never leaves the helm, though he may seem to sometimes when the storm hides Him."

The fire crackled and sputtered ; then it rose in a thin wavering flame.

"Before this is burnt out, messmates, we shall have started on another voyage, and pray God we get safely to port. Now, then, load all the muskets, and fire them at the third signal I give. If there is any vessel within two miles off the pack, they may perhaps hear us. One, two, three."

The discharge of the five guns broke the ghastly stillness with a crashing explosion, which seemed to rebound and spread from cliff to cliff till it faded far away in the northern solitudes, where death only reigned in eternal 'silence, and amid eternal snow.

"There goes our last hope," said the captain; "but I am thankful I can still say, His will be done; and I trust my children to His mercy."

"My wife don't need much praying for," said the quartermaster. "She 'll fight her way, I bet."

Just then the purser, who had been staring at the horizon, trying to pierce the gloom to the right, leaped on his feet, shouted, screamed, cried, embraced the captain, and danced and flung up his hat.

Every one turned round and looked where he was looking. There they saw a light sparkle, and

then a red light blaze up, and then a rocket meant in a long tail of fire till it discharged a nosegay of colored stars. It was a ship answering their light Then came the booming sound of a ship's gun. It was a vessel lying off the pack, and they were saved.

An hour's walk (they were all strong enough now) brought the captain and his men to the Tosel's side. The ship was only three miles off aloof the shore, but the fog had hidden it from them when they had returned to lay down and die.

As honest rough hands pressed theirs, and helped them up the vessel's side, and honest brown faces smiled welcome, and food was held out, and thirty sailors at once broke into a cheer that scared the wolves on the opposite shore, Captain Ritson said,—

"Thank God, friends, for this kindness. I'm a plain man, and I mean what I say; but my heart 's too full now to tell you all I feel. Purser, I did lose hope just now, when I saw the raft carried away."

One autumn afternoon, four months later, three men entered Mr. Blizzard's office and inquired for that gentleman.

"He is engaged just now," said a new clerk (the rest had left), and pointing to an inner glass door that stood ajar. "Engaged with Captain Card*i, of the Morning Star; he sails to-morrow for Belize Take seats."

"The muffled-up sailor-looking men took seats near the half-open door, through which came low words of talk.

"Ritson was too reckless," said a disagreeable voice, " and quite lost his head in danger."

"No doubt," said another voice. "Take another glass of sherry, captain. 'Do you like a dry wine!"

"The purser, too, was not very honest, I fear, ai»i very careless about the stores. By the by, did I ever tell you about that drunken quartermaster Thompson, losing that ship of yours, the Red Sttr, off the Malabar coast. He had just returned from Quebec, so Pennant told me, who sailed with him. He had been sotting at Quebec, and when the Fey sel was ready to start, he said he would n't pThey found him obstinate drunk. Will you believe it, he remained drunk the whole voyage till they came and told him he was near Glasgow Then he leaped up, shaved himself, put on his best coat and a white tie, and went on shore to see otr agents, old Falconer and Johnson, fresh as paint Ha! ha!"

The other voice laughed too. It was Mr. Blizzard, from his throne of large capital; he was proi>ably about to replace a ledger, and consult the almanac, as he had done that afternoon four mane before.

"You must make a better voyage with the Moraing Star than Captain Ritson did with his unfortunate vessel," said Mr. Blizzard. "Don't be afraid of the sherry."

But Cardew never drank that glass of sherry, for the door just then bursting open, dashed the glass to

Eicces in his hand, and Captain Ritson seized him y the throat.

"I 'm a plain man, Mr. Blizzard, sir," he said, "and I mean what I say; but if ever there was > mutinous, thieving, lying, false, shark-hearted scoundrel, it is this man who sunk the Shooting Star, a»J left me, and the" purer, and six more of us, to die off Labrador on the ice-pack. Purser, bring in tl»l policeman, and we 11 have justice done!"

At the next assizes, Cardew was sentenced to nine years' transportation for frauds on the fcouse °<

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

David and Blizzard, and for conspiring to sink the Shooting Star, and part of her crew, oil the coast of Labrador. A Liverpool paper, a few months ago, mentioned that a bushranger of the same name had been shot in an encounter with the mounted police. As the name is not a common one, the bushranger and the mate were probably the same persons.

The firm tried the quartermaster with another vessel, and he acquitted himself well; and as for Ritson, he is now the most respected captain in their service.


Scores, nay hundreds of volumes, have been gathered upon the oddities of character which mankind, in all ages, have presented to the observant writer who loves to "shoot folly as it flies." Voltaire has said, " Every country has its foolish notions Let us not laugh at any people "; but it

would be difficult to find any age which has not its curiosities of character to be laughed at and turned to still better account; for, of whatever period we write, something may be done in the way of ridicule towards turning the popular opinion. Diogenes owes much of his celebrity to his contempt of comfort, by living in a tub, and his oddity of manner. Orator Henley preached from his "gilt tub," in Clare Market, and thus earned commemoration in the Dunciad:

"Still break the benches, Henley, with thy strain,
While Sherlock, Hnre, and Gibson preach in vain;
O, worthy thou of Egypt's wise abodes,
A decent priest, where monkeys were the gods!
But Fate with butchers placed thy priestly stall,
Meek modern faith to murder, hack, and haul."

Eccentricity has its badge and characteristics by which it gains distinction and notoriety, and which, in some cases, serve as a lure to real excellence. The preaching of Rowland Hill is allowed to have been excellent; but his great popularity was won by his eccentric manner, and the many piquant anecdotes and witticisms, and sallies of humor unorthodox, with which, during his long ministry, he interlarded his sermons. However, he thought the end justified the means; and certain it is that it drew very large congregations. The personal allusions to his wife, which Rowland Hill is related to have used in the pulpit, were, however, fictious, and at which Hill expressed great indignation. "It is an abominable untruth," he would exclaim ; " derogatory to my character as a Christian and to gentleman. They would make me out a bear."

The success of Edward Irving, the popular minister of the National Scotch Church in London, was of a more mixed character. His sermons were not liked at first; and it was not until he was recognized by Dr. Chalmers that Irving became popular. But he was turned out of his church, and treated as a madman, and he died an outcast heretic. "There was no harm in the man," says a contemporary, "and what errors he entertained, or extravagances he allowed, in connection with supposed miraculous gifts, were certain, in due time, to burn themselves out. It was not so much the error of his doctrine, as the peculiarity of his manner, the torrent of his eloquence, his superlative want of tact, that provoked his enemies and frightened his friends. The strength of his faith was wonderful. Once, when he was called to the bedside of a dying man late at night, he went forth, but presently returned, and

beckoned one of his friends to accompany him. The reason was, that he really believed in the efficacy of prayer, and held to the promise, 'If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that ye shall ask, it shall be done.' It was necessary, therefore, that two should go to the sick man. So, also, he had a child that died in infancy, to whom he was in the habit of addressing 'words of godliness to nourish the faith that was in him'; and Irving adds, that 'the patient heed of the child was wonderful' He really believed that the infant, by some incomprehensible process, could group what he was saying, and profit by it. His love for children verged upon eccentricity; and he, a man of mark in London at that time, might be seen, day by day, stalking along the streets of Pentonville of an afternoon, his wife by his side, and his baby in his arms."

No great cause was ever inaugurated with more eccentric or more genuine fervor than the advocacy of temperance principles by Father Mathew, the Capuchin friar. "Here goes, in the name of God!" said the Father, on the 10th of April, 1838, when he pledged his name in the cause of temperance, and together with the Protestant priest, Charles Duncombe, the Unitarian philanthropist, Richard Dowden, and the stout Quaker, William Martin, publicly inaugurated a movement at Cork destined in a few years to count its converts by millions, and to spread its influence as far as the English language was spoken. In this good work, the habitually impulsive temperament of the Irish was acted upon for the purest and most beneficial of purposes; and one element of its success lay in the unselfishness of the Father, who was himself a serious sufferer by the results of his philanthropic exertions. A distillery in the south of Ireland, belonging to his family, and from which he himself derived a large income, was shut up in consequence of the disuse of whiskey among the lower orders, occasioned by his preaching. But his " Riverance " was most unscrupulously tyrannized over by his servant John, a wizened old bachelor, with a red nose, privately nourished by Bacchus; and he was only checked in his evil doings when the Father, more exasperated than usual, exclaimed, "John, if you go on in this way, I must certainly leave this house." On one occasion there was a frightful smack of whiskey pervading the pure element which graced the board, which he accounted for by saying he had placed the forbidden liquid, with which he "cleaned his tins," in the jug by mistake.

The temperance cause prospered; but Father Mathew, through his eccentric love of giving, found it impossible to keep out of debt, which ever kept him in thraldom. The hour of his deepest bitterness was when, while publicly administering the pledge in Dublin, he was arrested for the balance of an account due to a medal manufacturer; the bailiff to whom the duty was intrusted kneeling down among the crowd, asking his blessing, and then quietly showing him the writ. This is one of the many anecdotes told by Mr. Maguire, in his admirable " Life of Father Mathew," who, we learn from the same authority, at a large party, attempted to make a convert of Lord Brougham, who resisted, good-humoredly but resolutely, the efforts of his dangerous neighbor. "I drink very little wine," said Lord Brougham; "only half a glass at luncheon, and two half-glasses at dinner; and though my medical adviser told me I should increase the quantity, I refused to do so." "They are wrong, my lord, for advising you to increase the quantity,

[ocr errors]

and you are wrong in taking the small quantity you do; but I have my hopes of you." And so, after a pleasant resistance on the part of the learned lord, Father Mathew invested his lordship with the silver medal and ribbon, the insignia and collar of the Order of the Bath. "Then I will keep it," said Lord Brougham, "and take it to the House, where

I shall be sure to meet the old Lord , the worse

of liquor, and I will put it on him." Lord Brougham was as good as his word; for, on meeting the veteran peer, he said, "Lord , I have a present from Father Mathew for you," and passed the ribbon quietly over his neck. "Then I 'll tell you

what it is, Brougham, by , I will keep sober for

this day," said his lordship, who kept his word, to the great amusement of his friends.

One of the most eccentric emblems set up in our time was the wood-cut of a gridiron, which for many years headed the Political Register of William Cobbett, as a sign of the political martyrdom which he avowed he was prepared to undergo, upon certain conditions. He often threatened to set up an iron gridiron over his publishing office in Bolt Court and Fleet Street, but did not carry his threat into execution. The gridiron will be recollected as one of the emblems of St. Lawrence, and we see it as a large gilt vane of one of the city churches dedicated to the saint. As he was broiled on a gridiron for refusing to give up the treasures of the church committed to his care, so Cobbett vowed that he would consent to be broiled upon a gridiron, in his Register, dated Long Island, on the 24th of September, 1819, wherein he wrote the well-known prophecy on Peel's Cash Payment Bill of that year as follows: "I, William Cobbett, assert that to carry their Bill into effect is impossible; and I say that if this Bill be carried into full effect, I will give Castlereagh leave to lay me on a gridiron, and broil me alive, while Sidmouth may stir the coals, and Canning stand by and laugh at my groans."

On the hoisting of the gridiron in triumph, he wrote and published the fulfilment of his prophecy by the following statement: "Peel's Bill, together with the law about small notes, which last were in force when Peel's Bill was passed, — these laws, all taken together, if they had gone into effect, would have put an end to all small notes on the first day of May, 1823; but to precede this blowing-up of the whole of the funding system, an act was passed, in the month of July, 1822, to prevent these laws, and especially that part of Peel's Bill which put an end to small Bank of England notes, from going into full effect; thus the system received a respite, but thus did the Parliament fulfil the above prophecy of September, 1819."

A large sign gridiron was actually made for Mr. Cobbett. It was of dimensions sufficient for him to have lain thereon (he was six feet high); the implement was gilt, and we remember to have seen it displayed in the office window in Fleet Street; but it was never hoisted outside the office. It was long to be seen on the gable end of a building next Mr. Cobbctt's house at Kensington. Cobbett possessed extraordinary native vigor of mind; but every portion of his history ig marked by strange blunders. Shakespeare, the British Museum, antiquity, posterity, America, France, Germany, are, one and all, either wholly indifferent to him, or the objects of his bitter contempt. He absurdly designated the British Museum a " bundle of dead insects." When he had a subject that suited him, he is said to have handled it, not as an accomplished writer, but " with

the perfect and inimitable art with which a do" picks a bone."

Eccentricity in men of science is not rare. The Hon. Henry Cavendish, who demonstrated, in 1781, the composition of water, was a remarkable instance. He was an excellent mathematician, electrician, astronomer, meteorologist, geologist, and as a chemist shot far ahead of his contemporaries. But he was a sort of methodical recluse, and an enormous fortune left him by his uncle did little to change his habits. His shyness and aversion to society Ordered on disease. To be looked at or addressed by a stranger seemed to give him positive pain, when he would dart away as if hurt. At Sir Joseph lianks's soirees he would stand for a long time on the landing, afraid to face the company. At one of these parties the titles and qualifications of Cavendish were formally recited when he was introduced to an Austrian gentleman. The Austrian became complimentary, saying his chief reason for coming to London was to see and converse with Cavendish, one of the greatest ornaments of the age, and one of the most illustrious philosophers that ever existed. Cavendish answered not a word, but stood with his eyes cast down, abashed, and in misery. At last, seeing an opening in the crowd, he flew to the door, nor did he stop till he reached his carriage and drove directly home. Any attempt to draw Lira into conversation was almost certain to fail, and Dr. Wollaston's recipe for treating with him usually answered best: "The way to talk to Cavendish is, never to look at him, but to talk as if it were into a vacancy, and then it is not unlikely you may set him going."

Among the anecdotes which floated about it is related that Cavendish, the club Croesus, attended the meetings of the Royal Society Club with only money enough in his pocket to pay for his dinner; that he declined taking tavern soup, picked his teeth with a fork, invariably hung his hat upon the same peg,and always stuck his cane in his right boot. More apocryphal is the anecdote that one evening Cavendish observed a pretty girl looking out from an upper window on the opposite side of the street, watching the philosophers at dinner. She attracted notice, and one by one they got up, and mustered round the window to admire the fair one. Cavendish, who thought they were looking at the moon, bustled up to them in his odd way, and when he saw the real object of attraction, turned away with intense disgust, and grunted out "Pshaw!" the more amorous conduct of his brother philosophers having horrified the woman-hating Cavendish.

If men were a trouble to him, women were his abhorrence. With his housekeeper he generally communicated with notes deposited on the hall-table. He would never see a female servant; and if an unlucky maid showed herself, she was instantly amissed. To prevent inevitable encounters, he had a second staircase erected in his villa at Clapham. In all his habits he was punctiliously regular, even to his hanging his hat upon the same peg. From an unvarying walk he was, however, driven by being gazed at. Two ladies led a gentleman on^his track, in order that he might obtain a sight of the philosopher. As he was getting over a stile he saw, to his horror, that he was being watched, and he never appeared in that path again. That he was not quite merciless to the sex, was proved by his saving » lady from tho pursuit of a mad cow.

Cavendish's town-house was near the British Museum, at the corner of Gower Street and Montague

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Place. Few visitors were admitted, and those who crossed the threshold reported that books and apparatus were its chief furniture. He collected a large library of scientific books, hired a house for its reception in Dean Street, Soho, and kept a librarian. When he wanted one of his own books, he went there as to a circulating library, and left a formal receipt for whatever he took away. Nearly the whole of his villa at Clapham was occupied as workshops; the upper rooms were an observatory, the drawing-room was a laboratory. On the lawn was a wooden stage, from which access could be had to a large tree, to the top of which Cavendish, in the course of his astronomical and meteorological observations, and electrical experiments, occasionally ascended. His apparatus was roughly constructed, but was always exact and accurate.

His household was strangely managed. He received but little company, and the few guests were treated on all occasions to the same fare, — a leg of mutton. One day, four scientific friends were to dine with him; when his housekeeper asked him what was to be got for dinner, Cavendish replied, "A leg of mutton."

"Sir, said she, " that will not be enough for five." "Well, then, get two," was the reply. Cavendish extended his eccentric reception to his own family. His heir, Lord George Cavendish, visited him once a year, and was allowed an audience of but half an hour. His great income was allowed to accumulate without attention. The bankers where he kept his account, finding they had in hand a balance of £80,000, apprised him of the same. The messenger was announced, and Cavendish, in great agitation, desired him to be sent up ; and, as he entered the room, the ruffled philosopher cried, "What do you come here for? what'do you want with me?"

"Sir, I thought it proper to wait upon you, as we have a very large balance in hand of yours, and we wish your orders respecting it."

"If it is any trouble to you, I will take it out of your hands. Do not come here to plague me I"

"Not the least trouble to us, sir, not the least: but we thought you might like some of it to be invested." "Well, well, what do you want to do?" "Perhaps you would like £40,000 invested." "Do so, do so! and don't come here to trouble me, or I 'll remove it," was the churlish finale of the interview.

Cavendish died in 1810, at the age of 78. He was then the largest holder of bank-stock in England. He owned £1,157,000 in different public funds; he had besides, freehold property of £ 8,000 a year, and a balance of £ 50,000 at his bankers. He was long a member of the Royal Society Club, and it was reported at his death that he had left a thumping legacy to Lord Becsborough, in gratitude for his lordship's piquant conversation at the club meetings; but no such reason can be found in the will lodged at Doctors' Commons. Therein, Cavendish names three of his club-mates, namely: Alexander Dalrymple, to receive £5,000, Dr. Hunter £ 5,000, and Sir Charles Blagden (coadjutor in the water question) £ 15,000. After certain other bequests, the will proceeds: "The remainder of the funds (nearly £ 100,000) to be divided: one sixth the Earl of Beesborough," while Lord George Henry Cavendish had two sixths, instead of one: "it is, therefore," says Admiral Smyth, in his " History of

the Royal Society Club," " patent that the money thus passed over from uncle to nephew was a mere consequence of relationship, and not at all owing to any flowers or powers of conversation at the Royal Society Club."

Cavendish never changed the fashion or cut of his dress, so that his appearance in 1810, in a costume of sixty years previously, was odd, and drew upon him the attention which he so much disliked. His complexion was fair, his temperament nervous, and his voice squeaking; the only portrait that exists of him was sketched without his knowledge. Dr. George Wilson, who has left a clever memoir of Cavendish, says, " An intellectual head, thinking, a pair of wonderful acute eyes, observing, a pair of very skilful hands, experimenting or recording, are all that I realize in reading his memorials."

It may take some readers by surprise to learn that there have been true believers in alchemy in our days. Dr. Price is commonly set down in popular journals as "the last of the alchemists "; he died in 1783, in his twenty-fifth year, by taking a draught; of laurel-water rather than repeat his experiments before a committee of the Royal Society, on pain of expulsion.

At the beginning of the present century, some persons of eminence in science thought favorably of alchemy. Professor Robison, writing to James Watt, February 11, 1800, says, "The analysis of alkalies and alkaline earth will presently fead, I think, to the doctrine of a reciprocal convertibility of all things into all ... . and I expect to see alchemy revive, and be as universally studied as ever."

Sir Walter Scott tells us that "about 1801, an adept lived, or rather starved, in the metropolis, in the person of the editor of an evening newspaper, who expected to compound the alkahest, if he could only keep his materials digested in his lamp-furnace for the space of seven years." Scott adds, in pleasant banter, "the lamp burnt brightly during six years, eleven months, and some odd days besides, and then unluckily it went out. Why it went out, the adept could never guess; but he was certain that if the flame could only have burnt to the end of the septenary cycle, his experiment must have succeeded."

The last true believer in alchemy was not Dr. Price, but Peter Woulfe, the eminent chemist, and a fel* w of the Royal Society, and who made experiments to show the nature of Mosaic gold. Little is known of Woulfe's private life. Sir Humphrey Davy states, that Woulfe used to affix written passages and inscriptions of recommendations of his processes to Providence. Woulfe lived many years in chambers in the oldest portion of Barnard's Inn, Holborn, where his rooms were so filled with furnaces and apparatus, that it was difficult to reach his fireside. Dr. Babington told Mr. Brande (the venerable chemist, who died last month) that he once put down his hat, and never could find it again, such was the confusion of boxes, packages, and parcels, that lay about the room. Woulfe's breakfast-hour was four in the morning; a few of his select friends were occasionally invited, and gained entrance by a secret signal, knocking a certain number of times at the inner-door of the chamber. He had long vainly searched for the Elixir, and attributed his repeated failures to the want of due preparation by pious and charitable acts. Whenever he wished to break an acquaintance, or felt himself offended, he resented

« ПредишнаНапред »