Men of Invention and Industry Part 25

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"So the struggle went on, until the faithful old schoolmaster thought that his young pupil might try the examination at the Bangor Normal College. He was now eighteen years of age; and it was eighteen months since the time when he began to learn the counties of England and Wales. He went to Bangor, rigged out in his brother's coat and waistcoat, which were better than his own; and with his brother's watch in his pocket to time himself in his examinations. He went through his examination, but returned home thinking he had failed. Nevertheless, he had in the meantime, on the strength of a certificate which he had obtained six months before, in an examination held by the Society of Arts and Sciences in Liverpool, applied for a situation as teacher in a grammar-school at Ormskirk in Lancas.h.i.+re. He succeeded in his application, and had been there for only eight days when he received a letter from Mr. Rowlands, Princ.i.p.al of the Bangor Normal College, informing him that he had pa.s.sed at the head of the list, and was the highest non-pupil teacher examined by the British and Foreign Society.

Having obtained permission from his master to leave, he packed his clothes and his few books. He had not enough money to carry him home; but, unasked, the master of the school gave him 10s. He arrived home about three o'clock on a Sunday morning, after a walk of eleven miles over a lonely road from the place where the train had stopped. He reeled on the way, and found the country reeling too. He had been sleeping eight nights in a damp bed. Six weeks of the Bangor Session pa.s.sed, and during that time he had been delirious, and was too weak to sit up in bed. But the second time he crossed the threshold of his home he made for Bangor and got back his "position," which was all important to him, and he kept it all through.

"Having finished his course at Bangor he went to keep a school at Brynaman; he endeavoured to study but could not. After two years he gave up the school, and with 60L. saved he faced the world once more.

There was a scholars.h.i.+p of the value of 40L. a year, for three years, attached to one of the Scotch Universities, to be competed for. He knew the Latin Grammar, and had, with help, translated one of the books of Caesar. Of Greek he knew nothing, save the letters and the first declension of nouns; but in May he began to read in earnest at a farmhouse. He worked every day from 6 A.M. to 12 P.M. with only an hour's intermission. He studied the six Latin and two Greek books prescribed; he did some Latin composition unaided; brushed up his mathematics; and learnt something of the history of Greece and Rome.

In October, after five months of hard work, he underwent an examination for the scholars.h.i.+p, and obtained it; beating his opponent by twenty-eight marks in a thousand. He then went up to the Scotch University and pa.s.sed all the examinations for his ordinary M.A. degree in two years and a half. On his first arrival at the University he found that he could not sleep; but he wearily yet victoriously plodded on; took a prize in Greek, then the first prize in philosophy, the second prize in logic, the medal in English literature, and a few other prizes.

"He had 40L. when he first arrived in Scotland; and he carried away with him a similar sum to Germany, whither he went to study for honours in philosophy. He returned home with little in his pocket, borrowing money to go to Scotland, where he sat for honours and for the scholars.h.i.+p. He got his first honours, and what was more important at the time, money to go on with. He now lives on the scholars.h.i.+p which he took at that time; is an a.s.sistant professor; and, in a fortnight, will begin a course of lectures for ladies in connection with his university. Writing to me a few days ago,[13] he says, 'My health, broken down with my last struggle, is quite restored, and I live with the hope of working on. Many have worked more constantly, but few have worked more intensely. I found kindness on every hand always, but had I failed in a single instance I should have met with entire bankruptcy.

The failure would have been ruinous.... I thank G.o.d for the struggle, but would not like to see a dog try it again. There are droves of lads in Wales that would creep up but they cannot. Poverty has too heavy a hand for them.'"

The gentleman whose brief history is thus summarily given by Mr.

Davies, is now well known as a professor of philosophy; and, if his health be spared, he will become still better known. He is the author of several important works on 'Moral Philosophy,' published by a leading London firm; and more works are announced from his pen. The victorious struggle for knowledge which we have recounted might possibly be equalled, but it could not possibly be surpa.s.sed. There are, however, as Mr. Davies related to the Parliamentary Committee, many instances of Welsh students--most of them originally quarrymen--who keep themselves at school by means of the savings effected from manual labour, "in frequent cases eked out and helped by the kindness of friends and neighbours," who struggle up through many difficulties, and eventually achieve success in the best sense of the term. "One young man"--as the teacher of a grammar-school, within two miles of Bangor, related to Mr. Davies--"who came to me from the quarry some time ago, was a gold medallist at Edinburgh last winter;" and contributions are readily made by the quarrymen to help forward any young man who displays an earnest desire for knowledge in science and literature.

It is a remarkable fact that the quarrymen of Carnarvons.h.i.+re have voluntarily contributed large sums of money towards the establishment of the University College in North Wales--the quarry districts in that county having contributed to that fund, in the course of three years, mostly in half-crown subscriptions, not less than 508L. 4s. 4d.--"a fact," says Mr. Davies, "without its parallel in the history of the education of any country;" the most striking feature being, that these collections were made in support of an inst.i.tution from which the quarrymen could only very remotely derive any benefit.

While I was at Bangor, on the 24th of August, 1883, the news arrived that the Committee of Selection had determined that Bangor should be the site for the intended North Wales University College. The news rapidly spread, and great rejoicings prevailed throughout the borough, which had just been incorporated. The volunteer band played through the streets; the church bells rang merry peals; and gay flags were displayed from nearly every window. There never was such a triumphant display before in the cause of University education.

As Mr. Cadwalladr Davies observed at the banquet, which took place on the following day: "The establishment of the new inst.i.tution will mark the dawn of a new era in the history of the Welsh people. He looked to it, not only as a means of imparting academical knowledge to the students within its walls, but also as a means of raising the intellectual and moral tone of the whole people. They were fond of quoting the saying of a great English writer, that there was something Grecian in the Celtic race, and that the Celtic was the refining element in the British character; but such remarks, often accompanied as they were with offensive comparisons from Eisteddfod platforms, would in future be put to the test, for they would, with their new educational machinery, be placed on a footing of perfect equality with the Scotch and the Irish people."

And here must come to an end the character history of my autumn tour in Ireland, Scotland, Yorks.h.i.+re, and Wales. I had not the remotest intention when setting out of collecting information and writing down my recollections of the journey. But the persons I met, and the information I received, were of no small interest--at least to myself; and I trust that the reader will derive as much pleasure from perusing my observations as I have had in collecting and writing them down. I do think that the remarkable persons whose history and characters I have endeavoured, however briefly, to sketch, will be found to afford many valuable and important lessons of Self-Help; and to ill.u.s.trate how the moral and industrial foundations of a country may be built up and established.

Footnotes for Chapter XII.

[1] A "poet," who dates from "New York, March 1883," has published seven stanzas, ent.i.tled "Change here for Blairgowrie," from which we take the following:--

"From early morn till late at e'en, John's honest face is to be seen, Bustling about the trains between, Be 't suns.h.i.+ne or be 't showery; And as each one stops at his door, He greets it with the well-known roar Of 'Change here for Blairgowrie.'

Even when the still and drowsy night Has drawn the curtains of our sight, John's watchful eyes become more bright, And take another glow'r aye Thro' yon blue dome of sparkling stars Where Venus bright and ruddy Mars s.h.i.+ne down upon Blairgowrie.

He kens each jinkin' comet's track, And when it's likely to come back, When they have tails, and when they lack-- In heaven the waggish power aye; When Jupiter's belt buckle hings, And the Pyx mark on Saturn's rings, He sees from near Blairgowrie."

[2] The Observatory, No. 61, p. 146; and No. 68, p. 371.

[3] In an article on the subject in the Dundee Evening Telegraph, Mr.

Robertson observes: "If our finite minds were more capable of comprehension, what a glorious view of the grandeur of the Deity would be displayed to us in the contemplation of the centre and source of light and heat to the solar system. The force requisite to pour such continuous floods to the remotest parts of the system must ever baffle the mind of man to grasp. But we are not to sit down in indolence: our duty is to inquire into Nature's works, though we can never exhaust the field. Our minds cannot imagine motion without some Power moving through the medium of some subordinate agency, ever acting on the sun, to send such floods of light and heat to our otherwise cold and dark terrestrial ball; but it is the overwhelming magnitude of such power that we are incapable of comprehending. The agency necessary to throw out the floods of flame seen during the few moments of a total eclipse of the sun, and the power requisite to burst open a cavity in its surface, such as could entirely engulph our earth, will ever set all the thinking capacity of man at nought."

[4] The Observatory, Nos. 34, 42, 45, 49, and 58.

[5] We regret to say that Sheriff Barclay died a few months ago, greatly respected by all who knew him.

[6] Sir E. Denison Beckett, in his Rudimentary Treatise on clocks and Watches and Bells, has given an instance or the telescope-driving clock, invented by Mr. Cooke (p. 213).

[7] J. Norman Lockyer, F.R.S.--Stargazing, Past and Present, p. 302.

[8] This excellent instrument is now in the possession of my son-in-law, Dr. Hartree, of Leigh, near Tunbridge.

[9] An interesting account of Mr. Alvan Clark is given in Professor Newcomb's 'Popular Astronomy,' p. 137.

[10] A photographic representation of this remarkable telescope is given as the frontispiece to Mr. Lockyer's Stargazing, Past and Present; and a full description of the instrument is given in the text of the same work. This refracting telescope did not long remain the largest. Mr. Alvan Clark was commissioned to erect a larger equatorial for Was.h.i.+ngton Observatory; the object-gla.s.s (the rough disks of which were also furnished by Messrs. Chance of Birmingham) exceeding in aperture that of Mr. Cooke's by only one inch. This was finished and mounted in November, 1873. Another instrument of similar size and power was manufactured by Mr. Clark for the University of Virginia.

But these instruments did not long maintain their supremacy. In 1881, Mr. Howard Grubb, of Dublin, manufactured a still larger instrument for the Austrian Government--the object-gla.s.s being of twenty-seven inches aperture. But Mr. Alvan Clark was not to be beaten. In 1882, he supplied the Russian Government with the largest refracting telescope in existence the object-gla.s.s being of thirty inches diameter. Even this, however, is to be surpa.s.sed by the lens which Mr. Clark has in hand for the Lick Observatory (California), which is to have a clear aperture of three feet in diameter.

[11] Since the above pa.s.sage was written and in type, I have seen (in September 1884) the reflecting telescope referred to at pp. 357-8. It was mounted on its cast-iron equatorial stand, and at work in the field adjoining the village green at Bainbridge, Yorks.h.i.+re. The mirror of the telescope is 8 inches in diameter; its focal length, 5 feet; and the tube in which it is mounted, about 6 feet long. The instrument seemed to me to have an excellent defining power.

But Mr. Lancaster, like every eager astronomer, is anxious for further improvements. He considers the achromatic telescope the king of instruments, and is now engaged in testing convex optical surfaces, with a view to achieving a telescope of that description. The chief difficulty is the heavy charge for the circular blocks of flint gla.s.s requisite for the work which he meditates. "That," he says, "is the great difficulty with amateurs of my cla.s.s." He has, however, already contrived and constructed a machine for grinding and polis.h.i.+ng the lenses in an accurate convex form, and it works quite satisfactorily.

Mr. Lancaster makes his own tools. From the raw material, whether of gla.s.s or steel, he produces the work required. As to tools, all that he requires is a bar of steel and fire; his fertile brain and busy hands do the rest. I looked into the little workshop behind his sitting-room, and found it full of ingenious adaptations. The turning lathe occupies a considerable part of it; but when he requires more s.p.a.ce, the village smith with his st.i.thy, and the miller with his water-power, are always ready to help him. His tools, though not showy, are effective. His best lenses are made by himself: those which he buys are not to be depended upon. The best flint gla.s.s is obtained from Paris in blocks, which he divides, grinds, and polishes to perfect form.

I was attracted by a newly made machine, placed on a table in the sitting-room; and on inquiry found that its object was to grind and polish lenses. Mr. Lancaster explained that the difficulty to be overcome in a good machine, is to make the emery cut the surface equally from centre to edge of the lens, so that the lens will neither lengthen nor shorten the curve during its production. To quote his words: "This really involves the problem of the 'three bodies,' or disturbing forces so celebrated in dynamical mathematics, and it is further complicated by another quant.i.ty, the 'coefficient of attrition,' or work done by the grinding material, as well as the mischief done by capillary attraction and nodal points of superimposed curves in the path of the tool. These complications tend to cause rings or waves of unequal wear in the surface of the gla.s.s, and ruin the defining power of the lens, which depends upon the uniformity of its curve. As the outcome of much practical experiment, combined with mathematical research, I settled upon the ratio of speed between the sheave of the lens-tool guide and the turn-table; between whose limits the practical equalization of wear (or cut of the emery) might with the greater facility be adjusted, by means of varying the stroke and eccentricity of the tool. As the result of these considerations in the construction of the machine, the surface of the gla.s.s 'comes up'

regularly all over the lens; and the polis.h.i.+ng only takes a few minutes' work--thus keeping the truth of surface gained by using a rigid tool."

The machine in question consists of a revolving sheave or ring, with a sliding strip across its diameter; the said strip having a slot and clamping screw at one end, and a hole towards the other, through which pa.s.ses the axis of the tool used in forming the lens,--the slot in the strip allowing the tool to give any stroke from 0 to 1.25 inch. The lens is carried on a revolving turn-table, with an arrangement to allow the axis of the lens to coincide with the axis of the table. The ratio of speed between the sheave and turn-table is arranged by belt and properly sized pulleys, and the whole can be driven either by hand or by power. The sheave merely serves as a guide to the tool in its path, and the lens may either be worked on the turn-table or upon a chuck attached to the tool rod. The work upon the lens is thus to a great extent independent of the error of the machine through shaking, or bad fitting, or wear; and the only part of the machine which requires really first-cla.s.s work is the axis of the turn-table, which (in this machine) is a conical bearing at top, with steel centre below,--the bearing turned, hardened, and then ground up true, and run in anti-friction metal. Other details might be given, but these are probably enough for present purposes. We hope, at some future time, for a special detail of Mr. Lancaster's interesting investigations, from his own mind and pen.

[12] The translations are made by W. Cadwalladr Davies, Esq.

[13] This evidence was given by Mr. W. Cadwalladr Davies on the 28th October, 1880.

Men of Invention and Industry Part 25

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