Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Biographies of Working Men by Grant Allen

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

mysteries of shunts and junctions, were quite too much for his
simple, childish, old-world habits. He had a knack of getting out
too soon or too late, which often led him into great confusion.
Once, when he wanted to go to Chichester, he found himself landed
at Portsmouth, and only discovered his mistake when, on asking the
way to the cathedral, he was told there was no cathedral in the
town at all. Another story of how he tried to reach Wentworth,
Lord Fitzwilliam's place, is best told in his own words. "The
train soon stopped at a small station, and, seeing some people get
out, I also descended; when, in a moment, the train moved on--
faster and faster--and left me standing on the platform. I walked
a few paces backward and forward in disagreeable meditation. 'I
wish to Heaven,' thought I to myself, 'that I was on my way back to
Rome with a postboy.' Then I observed a policeman darting his eyes
upon me, as if he would look me through. Said I to the fellow,
'Where is that cursed train gone to? It's off with my luggage and
here am I.' The man asked me the name of the place where I took my
ticket. 'I don't remember,' said I. 'How should I know the name
of any of these places?--it's as long as my arm. I've got it
written down somewhere.' 'Pray, sir,' said the man, after a little
pause, 'are you a foreigner?' 'No,' I replied, 'I am not a
foreigner; I'm a sculptor.'"

The consequence of this almost childish carelessness was that
Gibson had always to be accompanied on his long journeys either by
a friend or a courier. While Mr. Ben lived, he usually took his
brother in charge to some extent; and the relation between them was
mutual, for while John Gibson found the sculpture, Mr. Ben found
the learning, so that Gibson used often to call him "my classical
dictionary." In 1847, however, Mr. Ben was taken ill. He got a
bad cold, and would have no doctor, take no medicine. "I consider
Mr. Ben," his brother writes, "as one of the most amiable of human
beings--too good for this world--but he will take no care against
colds, and when ill he is a stubborn animal." That summer Gibson
went again to England, and when, he came back found Mr. Ben no
better. For four years the younger brother lingered on, and in
1851 died suddenly from the effects of a fall in walking. Gibson
was thus left quite alone, but for his pupil Miss Hosmer, who
became to him more than a daughter.

During his later years Gibson took largely to tinting his statues--
colouring them faintly with flesh-tones and other hues like nature;
and this practice he advocated with all the strength of his single-
minded nature. All visitors to the great Exhibition of 1862 will
remember his beautiful tinted Venus, which occupied the place of
honour in a light temple erected for the purpose by another
distinguished artistic Welshman, Mr. Owen Jones, who did much
towards raising the standard of taste in the English people.

In January, 1866, John Gibson had a stroke of paralysis, from which
he never recovered. He died within the month, and was buried in
the English cemetery at Rome. Both his brothers had died before
him; and he left the whole of his considerable fortune to the Royal
Academy in England. An immense number of his works are in the
possession of the Academy, and are on view there throughout the

John Gibson's life is very different in many respects from that of
most other great working men whose story is told in this volume.
Undoubtedly, he was deficient in several of those rugged and stern
qualities to which English working men have oftenest owed their
final success. But there was in him a simple grandeur of
character, a purity of soul, and an earnestness of aim which raised
him at once far above the heads of most among those who would have
been the readiest to laugh at and ridicule him. Besides his
exquisite taste, his severe love of beauty, and his marvellous
power of expressing the highest ideals of pure form, he had one
thing which linked him to all the other great men whose lives we
have here recounted--his steadfast and unconquerable personal
energy. In one sense it may be said that he was not a practical
man; and yet in another and higher sense, what could possibly be
more practical than this accomplished resolve of the poor Liverpool
stone-cutter to overcome all obstacles, to go to, Rome, and to make
himself into a great sculptor? It is indeed a pity that in writing
for Englishmen of the present day such a life should even seem for
a moment to stand in need of a practical apology. For purity, for
guilelessness, for exquisite appreciation of the true purpose of
sculpture as the highest embodiment of beauty of form, John
Gibson's art stands unsurpassed in all the annals of modern



Old Isaac Herschel, the oboe-player of the King's Guard in Hanover,
had served with his regiment for many years in the chilly climate
of North Germany, and was left at last broken down in health and
spirits by the many hardships of several severe European campaigns.
Isaac Herschel was a man of tastes and education above his
position; but he had married a person in some respects quite
unfitted for him. His good wife, Anna, though an excellent
housekeeper and an estimable woman in her way, had never even
learned to write; and when the pair finally settled down to old age
in Hanover, they were hampered by the cares of a large family of
ten children. Respectable poverty in Germany is even more pressing
than in England; the decent poor are accustomed to more frugal fare
and greater privations than with us; and the domestic life of the
Herschel family circle must needs have been of the most careful and
penurious description. Still, Isaac Herschel dearly loved his art,
and in it he found many amends and consolations for the sordid
shifts and troubles of a straitened German household. All his
spare time was given to music, and in his later days he was enabled
to find sufficient pupils to eke out his little income with
comparative comfort.

William Herschel, the great astronomer (born in 1738), was the
fourth child of his mother, and with his brothers he was brought up
at the garrison school in Hanover, together with the sons of the
other common soldiers. There he learned, not only the three R's,
but also a little French and English. Still, the boy was not
content with these ordinary studies; in his own playtime he took
lessons in Latin and mathematics privately with the regimental
schoolmaster. The young Herschels, indeed, were exceptionally
fortunate in the possession of an excellent and intelligent father,
who was able to direct their minds into channels which few people
of their position in life have the opportunity of entering. Isaac
Herschel was partly of Jewish descent, and he inherited in a marked
degree two very striking Jewish gifts--a turn for music, and a turn
for philosophy. The Jews are probably the oldest civilized race
now remaining on earth; and their musical faculties have been
continuously exercised from a time long before the days of David,
so that now they produce undoubtedly a far larger proportion of
musicians and composers than any other class of the population
whatsoever. They are also deeply interested in the same profound
theological and philosophical problems which were discussed with so
much acuteness and freedom in the Book of Ecclesiastes and the
subtle argument of Job and his friends. There has never been a
time when the Jewish mind has not exercised itself profoundly on
these deep and difficult questions; and the Hanover bandsman
inherited from his Jewish ancestry an unusual interest in similar
philosophical subjects. Thus, while the little ones were sleeping
in the same common room at night, William and his father were often
heard discussing the ideas of such abstruse thinkers as Newton and
Leibnitz, whose names must have sounded strange indeed to the
ordinary frequenters of the Hanover barracks. On such occasions
good dame Herschel was often compelled to interpose between them,
lest the loudness of their logic should wake the younger children
in the crib hard by.

William, however, possessed yet another gift, which he is less
likely to have derived from the Jewish side of the house. He and
his brother Alexander were both distinguished by a natural taste
for mechanics, and early gave proof of their learning by turning
neat globes with the equator and ecliptic accurately engraved upon
them, or by making model instruments for their own amusement out of
bits of pasteboard. Thus, in early opportunities and educational
advantages, the young Herschels certainly started in life far
better equipped than most working men's sons; and, considering
their father's doubtful position, it may seem at first sight rather
a stretch of language to describe him as a working man at all.
Nevertheless, when one remembers the humble grade of military
bandsmen in Germany, even at the present day, and the fact that
most of the Herschel family remained in that grade during all their
lives, it is clear that William Herschel's life may be fairly
included within the scope of the present series. "In my fifteenth
year," he says himself, "I enlisted in military service," and he
evidently looked upon his enlistment in exactly the same light as
that of any ordinary soldier.

England and Hanover were, of course, very closely connected
together at the middle of the last century. The king moved about a
great deal from one country to the other; and in 1755 the regiment
of Hanoverian Guards was ordered on service to England for a year.
William Herschel, then seventeen years of age, and already a member
of the band, went together with his father; and it was in this
modest capacity that he first made acquaintance with the land where
he was afterwards to attain the dignity of knighthood and the post
of the king's astronomer. He played the oboe, like his father
before him, and no doubt underwent the usual severe military
discipline of that age of stiff stocks and stern punishments. His
pay was very scanty, and out of it he only saved enough to carry
home one memento of his English experiences. That memento was in
itself a sufficient mark of the stuff from which young Herschel was
compounded. It was a copy of "Locke on the Human Understanding."
Now, Locke's famous work, oftener named than read, is a very tough
and serious bit of philosophical exposition; and a boy of seventeen
who buys such a book out of his meagre earnings as a military
bandsman is pretty sure not to end his life within the four dismal
bare walls of the barrack. It is indeed a curious picture to
imagine young William Herschel, among a group of rough and
boisterous German soldiers, discussing high mathematical problems
with his father, or sitting down quietly in a corner to read "Locke
on the Human Understanding."

In 1757, during the Seven Years' War, Herschel was sent with his
regiment to serve in the campaign of Rossbach against the French.
He was not physically strong, and the hardships of active service
told terribly upon the still growing lad. His parents were alarmed
at his appearance when he returned, and were very anxious to
"remove" him from the service. That, however, was by no means an
easy matter for them to accomplish. They had no money to buy his
discharge, and so, not to call the transaction by any other than
its true name, William Herschel was forced to run away from the
army. We must not judge too harshly of this desertion, for the
times were hard, and the lives of men in Herschel's position were
valued at very little by the constituted authorities. Long after,
it is said, when Herschel had distinguished himself by the
discovery of the planet Uranus, a pardon for this high military
offence was duly handed to him by the king in person on the
occasion of his first presentation. George III. was not a
particularly wise or brilliant man; but even he had sense enough to
perceive that William Herschel could serve the country far better
by mapping out the stars of heaven than by playing the oboe to the
royal regiment of Hanoverian Guards.

William was nineteen when he ran away. His good mother packed his
boxes for him with such necessaries as she could manage, and sent
them after him to Hamburg; but, to the boy's intense disgust, she
forgot to send the copy of "Locke on the Human Understanding."
What a sturdy deserter we have here, to be sure! "She, dear
woman," he says plaintively, "knew no other wants than good linen
and clothing!" So William Herschel the oboe-player started off
alone to earn his living as best he might in the great world of
England. It is strange he should have chosen that, of all European
countries; for there alone he was liable to be arrested as a
deserter: but perhaps his twelvemonth's stay in London may have
given him a sense of being at home amongst us which he would have
lacked in any other part of Europe. At any rate, hither he came,
and for the next three years picked up a livelihood, we know not
how, as many other excellent German bandsmen have done before and
since him. Our information about his early life is very meagre,
and at this period we lose sight of him for a while altogether.

About the year 1760, however, we catch another incidental glimpse
of the young musician in his adopted country. By that time, he had
found himself once more a regular post as oboist to the Durham
militia, then quartered for its muster at Pontefract. A certain
Dr. Miller, an organist at Doncaster, was dining one evening at the
officers' mess; when his host happened to speak to him in high
praise of a young German they had in their band, who was really, he
said, a most remarkable and spirited performer. Dr. Miller asked
to see (or rather hear) this clever musician; so Herschel was
called up, and made to go through a solo for the visitor's
gratification. The organist was surprised at his admirable
execution, and asked him on what terms he was engaged to the Durham
militia. "Only from month to month," Herschel answered. "Then
leave them at the end of your month," said Miller, "and come to
live with me. I'm a single man; I think we can manage together;
and I'm sure I can get you a better situation." Herschel frankly
accepted the offer so kindly made, and seems to have lived for much
of the next five years with Miller in his little two-roomed cottage
at Doncaster. Here he took pupils and performed in the orchestra
at public concerts, always in a very quiet and modest fashion. He
also lived for part of the time with a Mr. Bulman at Leeds, for
whom he afterwards generously provided a place as clerk to the
Octagon Chapel at Bath. Indeed, it is a very pleasing trait in
William Herschel's character that to the end he was constantly
engaged in finding places for his early friends, as well as for the
less energetic or less fortunate members of his own family.

During these years, Herschel also seems to have given much
attention to the organ, which enabled him to make his next step in
life in 1765, when he was appointed organist at Halifax. Now,
there is a great social difference between the position of an oboe-
player in a band and a church organist; and it was through his
organ-playing that Herschel was finally enabled to leave his needy
hand-to-mouth life in Yorkshire. A year later, he obtained the
post of organist to the Octagon Chapel at Bath, an engagement which
gave him new opportunities of turning his mind to the studies for
which he possessed a very marked natural inclination. Bath was in
those days not only the most fashionable watering-place in England,
but almost the only fashionable watering-place in the whole
kingdom. It was, to a certain extent, all that Brighton,
Scarborough, Buxton, and Harrogate are to-day, and something more.
In our own time, when railways and steamboats have so altered the
face of the world, the most wealthy and fashionable English society
resorts a great deal to continental pleasure towns like Cannes,
Nice, Florence, Vichy, Baden, Ems, and Homburg; but in the
eighteenth century it resorted almost exclusively to Bath. The
Octagon Chapel was in one sense the centre of life in Bath; and
through his connection with it, Herschel was thrown into a far more
intelligent and learned society than that which he had left behind
him in still rural Yorkshire. New books came early to Bath, and
were read and discussed in the reading-rooms; famous men and women
came there, and contributed largely to the intellectual life of the
place; the theatre was the finest out of London; the Assembly Rooms
were famous as the greatest resort of wit and culture in the whole
kingdom. Herschel here was far more in his element than in the
barracks of Hanover, or in the little two-roomed cottage at rustic

He worked very hard indeed, and his work soon brought him comfort
and comparative wealth. Besides his chapel services, and his later
engagement in the orchestra of the Assembly Rooms, he had often as
many as thirty-eight private pupils in music every week; and he
also composed a few pieces, which were published in London with
some modest success. Still, in spite of all these numerous
occupations, the eager young German found a little leisure time to
devote to self-education; so much so that, after a fatiguing day of
fourteen or sixteen hours spent in playing the organ and teaching,
he would "unbend his mind" by studying the higher mathematics, or
give himself a lesson in Greek and Italian. At the same time; he
was also working away at a line of study, seemingly useless to him,
but in which he was afterwards to earn so great and deserved a
reputation. Among the books he read during this Bath period were
Smith's "Optics" and Lalande's "Astronomy." Throughout all his own
later writings, the influence of these two books, thoroughly
mastered by constant study in the intervals of his Bath music
lessons, makes itself everywhere distinctly felt.

Meanwhile, the family at Hanover had not been flourishing quite so
greatly as the son William was evidently doing in wealthy England.
During all those years, the young man had never forgotten to keep
up a close correspondence with his people in Germany. Already, in
1764, during his Yorkshire days, William Herschel had managed out
of his Savings as an oboe-player to make a short trip to his old
home; and his sister Carolina, afterwards his chief assistant in
his astronomical labours, notes with pleasure the delight she felt
in having her beloved brother with her once more, though she, poor
girl, being cook to the household apparently, could only enjoy his
society when she was not employed "in the drudgery of the
scullery." A year later, when William had returned to England
again, and had just received his appointment as organist at
Halifax, his father, Isaac, had a stroke of paralysis which ended
his violin-playing for ever, and forced him to rely thenceforth
upon copying music for a precarious livelihood. In 1767 he died,
and poor Carolina saw before her in prospect nothing but a life of
that domestic drudgery which she so disliked. "I could not bear
the idea of being turned into a housemaid," she says; and she
thought that if only she could take a few lessons in music and
fancy work she might get "a place as governess in some family where
the want of a knowledge of French would be no objection." But,
unhappily, good dame Herschel, like many other uneducated and
narrow-minded persons, had a strange dread of too much knowledge.
She thought that "nothing further was needed," says Carolina, "than
to send me two or three months to a sempstress to be taught to make
household linen; so all that my father could do was to indulge me
sometimes with a short lesson on the violin when my mother was
either in good humour or out of the way. It was her certain belief
that my brother William would have returned to his country, and my
eldest brother would not have looked so high, if they had had a
little less learning." Poor, purblind, well-meaning, obstructive
old dame Herschel! what a boon to the world that children like
yours are sometimes seized with this incomprehensible fancy for
"looking too high"!

Nevertheless, Carolina managed by rising early to take a few
lessons at daybreak from a young woman whose parents lived in the
same cottage with hers; and so she got through a little work before
the regular daily business of the family began at seven. Imagine
her delight then, just as the difficulties after her father's death
are making that housemaid's place seem almost inevitable, when she
gets a letter from William at Bath, asking her to come over to
England and join him at that gay and fashionable city. He would
try to prepare her for singing at his concerts; but if after two
years' trial she didn't succeed, he would take her back again to
Hanover himself. In 1772, indeed, William in person came over to
fetch her, and thenceforth the brother and sister worked
unceasingly together in all their undertakings to the day of the
great astronomer's death.

About this time Herschel had been reading Ferguson's "Astronomy,"
and felt very desirous of seeing for himself the objects in the
heavens, invisible to the naked eye, of which he there found
descriptions. For this purpose he must of course have a telescope.
But how to obtain one? that was the question. There was a small
two-and-a-half foot instrument on hire at one of the shops at Bath;
and the ambitious organist borrowed this poor little glass for a
time, not merely to look through, but to use as a model for
constructing one on his own account. Buying was impossible, of
course, for telescopes cost much money: but making would not be
difficult for a determined mind. He had always been of a
mechanical turn, and he was now fired with a desire to build
himself a telescope eighteen or twenty feet long. He sent to
London for the lenses, which could not be bought at Bath; and
Carolina amused herself by making a pasteboard tube to fit them in
her leisure hours. It was long before he reached twenty feet,
indeed: his first effort was a seven-foot, attained only "after
many continuous determined trials." The amateur pasteboard frame
did not fully answer Herschel's expectations, so he was obliged to
go in grudgingly for the expense of a tin tube. The reflecting
mirror which he ought to have had proved too dear for his still
slender purse, and he thus had to forego it with much regret. But
he found a man at Bath who had once been in the mirror-polishing
line; and he bought from him for a bargain all his rubbish of
patterns, tools, unfinished mirrors and so forth, with which he
proceeded to experiment on the manufacture of a proper telescope.
In the summer, when the season was over, and all the great people
had left Bath, the house, as Carolina says ruefully, "was turned
into a workshop." William's younger brother Alexander was busy
putting up a big lathe in a bedroom, grinding glasses and turning
eyepieces; while in the drawing-room itself, sacred to William's
aristocratic pupils, a carpenter, sad to relate, was engaged in
making a tube and putting up stands for the future telescopes. Sad
goings on, indeed, in the family of a respectable music-master and
organist! Many a good solid shopkeeper in Bath must no doubt have
shaken his grey head solemnly as he passed the door, and muttered
to himself that that young German singer fellow was clearly going
on the road to ruin with his foolish good-for-nothing star-gazing.

In 1774, when William Herschel was thirty six, he had at last
constructed himself a seven-foot telescope, and began for the first
time in his life to view the heavens in a systematic manner. From
this he advanced to a ten-foot, and then to one of twenty, for he
meant to see stars that no astronomer had ever yet dreamt of
beholding. It was comparatively late in life to begin, but
Herschel had laid a solid foundation already and he was enabled
therefore to do an immense deal in the second half of those
threescore years and ten which are the allotted average life of
man, but which he himself really overstepped by fourteen winters.
As he said long afterwards with his modest manner to the poet
Campbell, "I have looked further into space than ever human being
did before me. I have observed stars of which the light, it can be
proved, must take two millions of years to reach this earth." That
would have been a grand thing for any man to be able truthfully to
say under any circumstances: it was a marvellous thing for a man
who had laboured under all the original disadvantages of Herschel--
a man who began life as a penniless German bandsman, and up to the
age of thirty-six had never even looked through a telescope.

At this time, Herschel was engaged in playing the harpsichord in
the orchestra of the theatre; and it was during the interval
between the acts that he made his first general survey of the
heavens. The moment his part was finished, he would rush out to
gaze through his telescope; and in these short periods he managed
to observe all the visible stars of what are called the first,
second, third, and fourth magnitudes. Henceforth he went on
building telescope after telescope, each one better than the last;
and now all his glasses were ground and polished either by his own
hand or by his brother Alexander's. Carolina meanwhile took her
part in the workshop; but as she had also to sing at the oratorios,
and her awkward German manners might shock the sensitive nerves of
the Bath aristocrats, she took two lessons a week for a whole
twelvemonth (she tells us in her delightfully straightforward
fashion) "from Miss Fleming, the celebrated dancing mistress,
to drill me for a gentlewoman." Poor Carolina, there she was
mistaken: Miss Fleming could make her into no gentlewoman, for she
was born one already, and nothing proves it more than the perfect
absence of false shame with which in her memoirs she tells us all
these graphic little details of their early humble days.

While they were thus working at Bath an incident occurred which is
worth mentioning because it shows the very different directions in
which the presence or the want of steady persistence may lead the
various members of the very self-same family. William received a
letter from his widowed mother at Hanover to say, in deep distress,
that Dietrich, the youngest brother, had run away from home, it was
supposed for the purpose of going to India, "with a young idler no
older than himself." Forthwith, the budding astronomer left the
lathe where he was busy turning an eye-piece from a cocoa-nut
shell, and, like a good son and brother as he always was, hurried
off to Holland and thence to Hanover. No Dietrich was anywhere to
be found. But while he was away, Carolina at Bath received a
letter from Dietrich himself, to tell her ruefully he was "laid up
very ill" at a waterside tavern in Wapping--not the nicest or most
savoury East End sailor-suburb of London. Alexander immediately
took the coach to town, put the prodigal into a decent lodging,
nursed him carefully for a fortnight, and then took him down with
him in triumph to the family home at Bath. There brother William
found him safe and sound on his return, under the sisterly care of
good Carolina. A pretty dance he had led the two earnest and
industrious astronomers; but they seem always to have treated this
black sheep of the family with uniform kindness, and long
afterwards Sir William remembered him favourably in his last will.

In 1779 and the succeeding years the three Herschels were engaged
during all their spare time in measuring the heights of about one
hundred mountains in the moon, which William gauged by three
different methods. In the same year, he made an acquaintance of
some importance to him, as forming his first introduction to the
wider world of science in London and elsewhere. Dr. Watson, a
Fellow of the Royal Society, happened, to see him working at his
telescope; and this led to a visit from the electrician to the
amateur astronomer. Dr. Watson was just then engaged in getting up
a Philosophical Society at Bath (a far rarer institution at that
time in a provincial town than now), and he invited William
Herschel to join it. Here Herschel learned for the first time to
mix with those who were more nearly his intellectual equals, and to
measure his strength against other men's.

It was in 1781 that Herschel made the great discovery which
immediately established his fame as an astronomer, and enabled him
to turn from conducting concerts to the far higher work of
professionally observing the stars. On the night of Tuesday, March
13th, Herschel was engaged in his usual systematic survey of the
sky, a bit at a time, when his telescope lighted among a group of
small fixed stars upon what he at first imagined to be a new comet.
It proved to be no comet, however, but a true planet--a veritable
world, revolving like our own in a nearly circular path around the
sun as centre, though far more remote from it than the most distant
planet then known, Saturn. Herschel called his new world the
Georgium Sidus (King George's star) in honour of the reigning
monarch; but it has since been known as Uranus. Astronomers all
over Europe were soon apprised of this wonderful discovery, and the
path of the freshly found planet was computed by calculation, its
distance from the sun being settled at nineteen times that of our
own earth.

In order faintly to understand the importance attached at the time
to Herschel's observation of this very remote and seemingly petty
world, we must remember that up to that date all the planets which
circle round our own sun had been familiarly known to everybody
from time immemorial. To suggest that there was yet another world
belonging to our system outside the path of the furthest known
planet would have seemed to most people like pure folly. Since
then, we have grown quite accustomed to the discovery of a fresh
small world or two every year, and we have even had another large
planet (Neptune), still more remote than Herschel's Uranus, added
to the list of known orbs in our own solar system. But in
Herschel's day, nobody had ever heard of a new planet being
discovered since the beginning of all things. A hundred years
before, an Italian astronomer, it is true, had found out four small
moons revolving round Saturn, besides the big moon then already
known; but for a whole century, everybody believed that the solar
system was now quite fully explored, and that nothing fresh could
be discovered about it. Hence Herschel's observation produced a
very different effect from, say, the discovery of the two moons
which revolve round Mars, in our own day. Even people who felt no
interest in astronomy were aroused to attention. Mr. Herschel's
new planet became the talk of the town and the subject of much
admiring discussion in the London newspapers. Strange, indeed,
that an amateur astronomer of Bath, a mere German music-master,
should have hit upon a planet which escaped the sight even of the
king's own Astronomer Royal at Greenwich.

Of course there were not people wanting who ascribed this wonderful
discovery of Herschel's to pure chance. If he hadn't just happened
to turn his telescope in that particular direction on that
particular night, he wouldn't have seen this Georgium Sidus they
made such a fuss about at all. Quite so. And if he hadn't built a
twenty-foot telescope for himself, he wouldn't have turned it
anywhere at any time. But Herschel himself knew better. "This was
by no means the result of chance," he said; "but a simple
consequence of the position of the planet on that particular
evening, since it occupied precisely that spot in the heavens which
came in the order of the minute observations that I had previously
mapped out for myself. Had I not seen it just when I did, I must
inevitably have come upon it soon after, since my telescope was so
perfect that I was able to distinguish it from a fixed star in the
first minute of observation." Indeed, when once Herschel's twenty-
foot telescope was made, he could not well have failed in the long
run to discover Uranus, as his own description of his method
clearly shows. "When I had carefully and thoroughly perfected the
great instrument in all its parts," he says, "I made a systematic
use of it in my observation of the heaven, first forming a
determination never to pass by any, the smallest, portion of them
without due investigation. This habit, persisted in, led to the
discovery of the new planet (Georgium Sidus)." As well might one
say that a skilled mining surveyor, digging for coal, came upon the
seam by chance, as ascribe to chance the necessary result of such a
careful and methodical scrutiny as this.

Before the year was out, the ingenious Mr. Herschel of Bath was
elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was also presented with
the Copley gold medal. From this moment all the distinguished
people in Bath were anxious to be introduced to the philosophical
music-master; and, indeed, they intruded so much upon his time that
the daily music lessons were now often interrupted. He was soon,
however, to give up lessons for ever, and devote himself to his
more congenial and natural work in astronomy. In May, 1782, he
went up to London, to be formally admitted to his Fellowship of the
Royal Society. There he stayed so long that poor Carolina was
quite frightened. It was "double the time which my brother could
safely be absent from his scholars." The connection would be
broken up, and the astronomy would be the ruin of the family. (A
little of good old dame Herschel's housewifely leaven here,
perhaps.) But William's letters from London to "Dear Lina" must
soon have quieted her womanly fears. William had actually been
presented to the king, and "met with a very gracious reception."
He had explained the solar system to the king and queen, and his
telescope was to be put up first at Greenwich and then at Richmond.
The Greenwich authorities were delighted with his instrument; they
have seen what Herschel calls "MY fine double stars" with it. "All
my papers are printing," he tells Lina with pardonable pride, "and
are allowed to be very valuable." But he himself is far from
satisfied as yet with the results of his work. Evidently no small
successes in the field of knowledge will do for William Herschel.
"Among opticians and astronomers," he writes to Lina, "nothing now
is talked of but WHAT THEY CALL my great discoveries. Alas! this
shows how far they are behind, when such trifles as I have seen and
done are called GREAT. Let me but get at it again! I will make
such telescopes and see such things!" Well, well, William
Herschel, in that last sentence we get the very keynote of true
greatness and true genius.

But must he go back quietly to Bath and the toils of teaching?
"An intolerable waste of time," he thought it. The king happily
relieved him from this intolerable waste. He offered Herschel a
salary of 200 pounds a year if he would come and live at Datchet,
and devote himself entirely to astronomical observations. It was
by no means a munificent sum for a king to offer for such labour;
but Herschel gladly accepted it, as it would enable him to give up
the interruption of teaching, and spend all his time on his beloved
astronomy. His Bath friend, Sir William Watson, exclaimed when he
heard of it, "Never bought monarch honour so cheap." Herschel was
forty-three when he removed to Datchet, and from that day forth he
lived almost entirely in his observatory, wholly given up to his
astronomical pursuits. Even when he had to go to London to read
his papers before the Royal Society, he chose a moonlight night
(when the stars would be mostly invisible), so that it might not
interfere with his regular labours.

Poor Carolina was horrified at the house at Datchet, which seemed
terribly desolate and poor, even to her modest German ideas; but
William declared his willingness to live permanently and cheerfully
upon "eggs and bacon" now that he was at last free to do nothing on
earth but observe the heavens. Night after night he and Carolina
worked together at their silent task--he noting the small features
with his big telescope, she "sweeping for comets" with a smaller
glass or "finder." Herschel could have had no more useful or
devoted assistant than his sister, who idolized him with all her
heart. Alexander, too, came to stay with them during the slack
months at Bath, and then the whole strength of the family was bent
together on their labour of love in gauging the heavens.

But what use was it all? Why should they wish to go star-gazing?
Well, if a man cannot see for himself what use it was, nobody else
can put the answer into him, any more than they could put into him
a love for nature, or for beauty, or for art, or for music, if he
had it not to start with. What is the good of a great picture, a
splendid oratorio, a grand poem? To the man who does not care for
them, nothing; to the man who loves them, infinite. It is just the
same with science. The use of knowledge to a mind like Herschel's
is the mere possession of it. With such as he, it is a love, an
object of desire, a thing to be sought after for its town sake; and
the mere act of finding it is in itself purely delightful. "Happy
is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth
understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the
merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is
more precious than rubies; and all the things thou canst desire are
not to be compared unto her." So, to such a man as Herschel, that
peaceful astronomer life at Datchet was indeed, in the truest sense
of those much-abused words, "success in life." If you had asked
some vulgar-minded neighbour of the great Sir William in his later
days whether the astronomer had been a successful man or not, he
would doubtless have answered, after his kind, "Certainly. He has
been made a knight, has lands in two counties, and has saved 35,000
pounds." But if you had asked William Herschel himself, he would
probably have said, with his usual mixture of earnestness and
humility, "Yes, I have been a very fortunate man in life. I have
discovered Uranus, and I have gauged all the depths of heaven, as
none before ever gauged them, with my own great telescope."

Still, those who cannot sympathize with the pure love of knowledge
for its own sake--one of the highest and noblest of human aims--
should remember that astronomy is also of immense practical
importance to mankind, and especially to navigation and commerce.
Unless great astronomical calculations were correctly performed at
Greenwich and elsewhere, it would be impossible for any ship or
steamer to sail with safety from England to Australia or America.
Every defect in our astronomical knowledge helps to wreck our
vessels on doubtful coasts; every advance helps to save the lives
of many sailors and the cargoes of many merchants. It is this
practical utility of astronomy that justifies the spending of
national money on observatories and transits of Venus, and it is
the best apology for an astronomer's life to those who do not
appreciate the use of knowledge for its own beauty.

At Datchet, Herschel not only made several large telescopes for
sale, for which he obtained large prices, but he also got a grant
of 2000 pounds from the king to aid him in constructing his huge
forty-foot instrument. It was here, too, in 1783, that Herschel
married. His wife was a widow lady of scientific tastes like his
own, and she was possessed of considerable means, which enabled him
henceforth to lay aside all anxiety on the score of money. They
had but one child, a son, afterwards Sir John Herschel, almost as
great an astronomer as his father had been before him. In 1785,
the family moved to Clay Hall, in Old Windsor, and in 1786 to
Slough, where Herschel lived for the remainder of his long life.
How completely his whole soul was bound up in his work is shown in
the curious fact recorded for us by Carolina Herschel. The last
night at Clay Hall was spent in sweeping the sky with the great
glass till daylight; and by the next evening the telescope stood
ready for observations once more in the new home at Slough.

To follow Herschel through the remainder of his life would be
merely to give a long catalogue of his endless observations and
discoveries among the stars. Such a catalogue would be interesting
only to astronomers; yet it would truly give the main facts of
Herschel's existence in his happy home at Slough. Honoured by the
world, dearly loved in his own family, and engrossed with a
passionate affection for his chosen science, the great astronomer
and philosopher grew grey in peace under his own roof, in the
course of a singularly placid and gentle old age. In 1802 he laid
before the Royal Society a list of five thousand new stars, star-
clusters, or other heavenly bodies which he had discovered, and
which formed the great body of his personal additions to
astronomical knowledge. The University of Oxford made him Doctor
of Laws, and very late in life he was knighted by the king--a too
tardy acknowledgment of his immense services to science. To the
very last, however, he worked on with a will; and, indeed, it is
one of the great charms of scientific interest that it thus enables
a man to keep his faculties on the alert to an advanced old age.
In 1819, when Herschel was more than eighty, he writes to his
sister a short note--"Lina, there is a great comet. I want you to
assist me. Come to dine and spend the day here. If you can come
soon after one o'clock, we shall have time to prepare maps and
telescopes. I saw its situation last night. It has a long tail."
How delightful to find such a living interest in life at the age of

On the 25th of August, 1822, this truly great and simple man passed
away, in his eighty-fifth year. It has been possible here only to
sketch out the chief personal points in his career, without
dwelling much upon the scientific importance of his later life-long
labours; but it must suffice to say briefly upon this point that
Herschel's work was no mere mechanical star-finding; it was the
most profoundly philosophical astronomical work ever performed,
except perhaps Newton's and Laplace's. Among astronomers proper
there has been none distinguished by such breadth of grasp, such
wide conceptions, and such perfect clearness of view as the self-
taught oboe-player of Hanover.



There is no part of France so singularly like England, both in the
aspect of the country itself and in the features and character of
the inhabitants, as Normandy. The wooded hills and dales, the
frequent copses and apple orchards, the numerous thriving towns and
villages, the towers and steeples half hidden among the trees,
recall at every step the very similar scenery of our own beautiful
and fruitful Devonshire. And as the land is, so are the people.
Ages ago, about the same time that the Anglo-Saxon invaders first
settled down in England, a band of similar English pirates, from
the old common English home by the cranberry marshes of the Baltic,
drove their long ships upon the long rocky peninsula of the
Cotentin, which juts out, like a French Cornwall, from the mainland
of Normandy up to the steep cliffs and beetling crags of busy
Cherbourg. There they built themselves little hamlets and villages
of true English type, whose very names to this day remind one of
their ancient Saxon origin. Later on, the Danes or Northmen
conquered the country, which they called after their own name,
Normandy, that is to say, the Northmen's land. Mixing with the
early Saxon or English settlers, and with the still more primitive
Celtic inhabitants, the Northmen founded a race extremely like that
which now inhabits our own country. To this day, the Norman
peasants of the Cotentin retain many marks of their origin and
their half-forgotten kinship with the English race. While other
Frenchmen are generally dark and thick-set, the Norman is, as a
rule, a tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed man, not unlike in build to
our Yarmouth fisherman, or our Kentish labourers. In body and
mind, there is something about him even now which makes him seem
more nearly akin to us than the true Frenchmen who inhabit almost
all the rest of France.

In the village of Gruchy, near Greville, in this wild and beautiful
region of the Cotentin, there lived at the beginning of the present
century a sturdy peasant family of the name of Millet. The father
of the family was one of the petty village landholders so common in
France; a labourer who owned and tilled his own tiny patch of farm,
with the aid of his wife and children. We have now no class in
England exactly answering to the French peasant proprietors, who
form so large and important an element in the population just
across the Channel. The small landholder in France belongs by
position to about the same level as our own agricultural labourer,
and in many ways is content with a style of dress and a mode of
living against which English labourers would certainly protest with
horror. And yet, he is a proprietor, with a proprietor's sense of
the dignity of his position, and an ardent love of his own little
much-subdivided corner of agricultural land. On this he spends all
his energies, and however many children he may have, he will try to
make a livelihood for all by their united labour out of the soil,
rather than let one of them go to seek his fortune by any other
means in the great cities. Thus the ground is often tilled up to
an almost ridiculous extent, the entire labour of the family being
sometimes expended in cultivating, manuring, weeding, and tending a
patch of land perhaps hardly an acre in size. It is quite touching
to see the care and solicitude with which these toilsome peasants
will laboriously lay out their bit of garden with fruits or
vegetables, making every line almost mathematically regular,
planting every pea at a measured distance, or putting a smooth flat
pebble under every strawberry on the evenly ridged-up vines. It is
only in the very last resort that the peasant proprietor will
consent to let one of his daughters go out to service, or send one
of his sons adrift to seek his fortune as an artisan in the big,
unknown, outer world.

Millet the elder, however, had nine children, which is an unusually
large number for a French peasant family (where the women ordinarily
marry late in life); and his little son Jean Francois (the second
child and eldest boy), though set to weed and hoe upon the wee farm
in his boyhood, was destined by his father for some other life than
that of a tiller of the soil. He was born in the year before
Waterloo--1814--and was brought up on his father's plot of land, in
the hard rough way to which peasant children in France are always
accustomed. Bronzed by sun and rain, poorly clad, and ill-fed, he
acquired as a lad, from the open air and the toilsome life he led,
a vigour of constitution which enabled him to bear up against the
numerous hardships and struggles of his later days. "A Norman
Peasant," he loved to call himself always, with a certain proud
humility; and happily he had the rude health of one all his life

Hard as he worked, little Francois' time was not entirely taken up
with attending to the fields or garden. He was a studious boy, and
learned not only to read and write in French, but also to try some
higher flights, rare indeed for a lad of his position. His family
possessed remarkable qualities as French peasants go; and one of
his great-uncles, a man of admirable strength of character, a
priest in the days of the great Revolution, had braved the godless
republicans of his time, and though deprived of his cure, and
compelled to labour for his livelihood in the fields, had yet
guided the plough in his priestly garments. His grandmother first
taught him his letters; and when she had instructed him to the
length of reading any French book that was put before him, the
village priest took him in hand. In France, the priest comes often
from the peasant class, and remains in social position a member of
that class as long as he lives. But he always possesses a fair
knowledge of Latin, the language in which all his religious
services are conducted; and this knowledge serves as a key to much
that his unlearned parishioners could never dream of knowing.
Young Millet's parish priest taught him as much Latin as he knew
himself; and so the boy was not only able to read the Bible in the
Latin or Vulgate translation, but also to make acquaintance with
the works of Virgil and several others of the great Roman poets.
He read, too, the beautiful "Confessions" of St. Augustine, and
the "Lives of the Saints," which he found in his father's scanty
library, as well as the works of the great French preachers,
Bossuet and Fenelon. Such early acquaintance with these and many
other masterpieces of higher literature, we may be sure, helped
greatly to mould the lad's mind into that grand and sober shape
which it finally acquired.

Jean Francois' love of art was first aroused by the pictures in an
old illustrated Bible which belonged to his father, and which he
was permitted to look at on Sundays and festivals. The child
admired these pictures immensely, and asked leave to be permitted
to copy them. The only time he could find for the purpose,
however, was that of the mid-day rest or siesta. It is the custom
in France, as in Southern Europe generally, for labourers to cease
from work for an hour or so in the middle of the day; and during
this "tired man's holiday," young Millet, instead of resting, used
to take out his pencil and paper, and try his hand at reproducing
the pictures in the big Bible. His father was not without an
undeveloped taste for art. "See," he would say, looking into some
beautiful combe or glen on the hillside--"see that little cottage
half buried in the trees; how beautiful it is! I think it ought to
be drawn so--;" and then he would make a rough sketch of it on some
scrap of paper. At times he would model things with a bit of clay,
or cut the outline of a flower or an animal with his knife on a
flat piece of wood. This unexercised talent Francois inherited in
a still greater degree. As time went on, he progressed to making
little drawings on his own account; and we may be sure the priest
and all the good wives of Gruchy had quite settled in their own
minds before long that Jean Francois Millet's hands would be able
in time to paint quite a beautiful altar-piece for the village

By-and-by, when the time came for Francois to choose a trade, he
being then a big lad of about nineteen, it was suggested to his
father that young Millet might really make a regular painter--that
is to say, an artist. In France, the general tastes of the people
are far more artistic than with us; and the number of painters who
find work for their brushes in Paris is something immensely greater
than the number in our own smoky, money-making London. So there
was nothing very remarkable, from a French point of view, in the
idea of the young peasant turning for a livelihood to the
profession of an artist. But Millet's father was a sober and
austere man, a person of great dignity and solemnity, who decided
to put his son's powers to the test in a very regular and critical
fashion. He had often watched Francois drawing, and he thought
well of the boy's work. If he had a real talent for painting, a
painter he should be; if not, he must take to some other craft,
where he would have the chance of making himself a decent
livelihood. So he told Francois to prepare a couple of drawings,
which he would submit to the judgment of M. Mouchel, a local
painter at Cherbourg, the nearest large town, and capital of the
department. Francois duly prepared the drawings, and Millet the
elder went with his, son to submit them in proper form for M.
Mouchel's opinion. Happily, M. Mouchel had judgment enough to see
at a glance that the drawings possessed remarkable merit. "You
must be playing me a trick," he said; "that lad could never have
made these drawings." "I saw him do them with my own eyes,"
answered the father warmly. "Then," said Mouchel, "all I can say
is this: he has in him the making of a great painter." He accepted
Millet as his pupil; and the young man set off for Cherbourg
accordingly, to study with care and diligence under his new master.

Cherbourg, though not yet at that time a great naval port, as it
afterwards became, was a busy harbour and fishing town, where the
young artist saw a great deal of a kind of life with which he
possessed an immense sympathy. The hard work of the fishermen
putting out to sea on stormy evenings, or toiling with their nets
ashore after a sleepless night, made a living picture which stamped
itself deeply on his receptive mind. A man of the people himself,
born to toil and inured to it from babyhood, this constant scene of
toiling and struggling humanity touched the deepest chord in his
whole nature, so that some of the most beautiful and noble of his
early pictures are really reminiscences of his first student days
at Cherbourg. But after he had spent a year in Mouchel's studio,
sad news came to him from Gruchy. His father was dying, and
Francois was only just in time to see him before he passed away.
If the family was to be kept together at all, Francois must return
from his easel and palette, and take once more to guiding the
plough. With that earnest resolution which never forsook him,
Millet decided to accept the inevitable. He went back home once
more, and gave up his longings for art in order to till the ground
for his fatherless sisters.

Luckily, however, his friends at Gruchy succeeded after awhile in
sending him back again to Cherbourg, where he began to study under
another master, Langlois, and to have hopes once more for his
artistic future, now that he was free at last to pursue it in his
own way. At this time, he read a great deal--Shakespeare, Walter
Scott, Byron, Goethe's "Faust," Victor Hugo and Chateaubriand; in
fact, all the great works he could lay his hands upon. Peasant as
he was, he gave himself, half unconsciously, a noble education.
Very soon, it became apparent that the Cherbourg masters could do
nothing more for him, and that, if he really wished to perfect
himself in art, he must go to Paris. In France, the national
interest felt in painting is far greater and more general than in
England. Nothing is commoner than for towns or departments to
grant pensions (or as we should call them, scholarships) to
promising lads who wish to study art in Paris. Young Millet had
attracted so much attention at Cherbourg, that the Council General
of the Department of the Manche voted him a present of six hundred
francs (about 24 pounds) to start him on the way; and the town of
Cherbourg promised him an annual grant of four hundred francs more
(about 16 pounds). So up to Paris Millet went, and there was duly
enrolled as a student at the Government "School of Fine-Arts."

Those student days in Paris were days of hunger and cold, very
often, which Millet bore with the steady endurance of a Norman
peasant boy. But they were also days of something worse to him--of
effort misdirected, and of constant struggling against a system for
which he was not fitted. In fact, Millet was an original genius,
whereas the teachers at the School of Fine Arts were careful and
methodical rule-of-thumb martinets. They wished to train Millet
into the ordinary pattern, which he could not follow; and in the
end, he left the school, and attached himself to the studio of Paul
Delaroche, then the greatest painter of historical pictures in all
Paris. But even Delaroche, though an artist of deep feeling and
power, did not fully understand his young Norman pupil. He himself
used to paint historical pictures in the grand style, full of
richness and beauty; but his subjects were almost always chosen
from the lives of kings or queens, and treated with corresponding
calmness and dignity. "The Young Princes in the Tower," "The
Execution of Marie Antoinette," "The Death of Queen Elizabeth,"
"Cromwell viewing the Body of Charles I."--these were the kind of
pictures on which Delaroche loved to employ himself. Millet, on
the other hand, though also full of dignity and pathos, together
with an earnestness far surpassing Delaroche's, did not care for
these lofty subjects. It was the dignity and pathos of labour that
moved him most; the silent, weary, noble lives of the uncomplaining
peasants, amongst whom his own days had been mostly passed.
Delaroche could not make him out at all; he was such a curious,
incomprehensible, odd young fellow! "There, go your own way, if
you will," the great master said to him at last; "for my part, I
can make nothing of you."

So, shortly after, Millet and his friend Marolle set up a studio
for themselves in the Rue de l'Est in Paris. The precise occasion
of their going was this. Millet was anxious to obtain the Grand
Prize of Rome annually offered to the younger artists, and
Delaroche definitely told him that his own influence would be used
on behalf of another pupil. After this, the young Norman felt that
he could do better by following out his own genius in his own
fashion. At the Rue de l'Est, he continued to study hard, but he
also devoted a large part of his time to painting cheap portraits--
what artists call "pot-boilers;" mere hasty works dashed off anyhow
to earn his daily livelihood. For these pictures he got about ten
to fifteen francs apiece,--in English money from eight to twelve
shillings. They were painted in a theatrical style, which Millet
himself detested--all pink cheeks, and red lips, and blue satin,
and lace collars; whereas his own natural style was one of great
austerity and a certain earnest sombreness the exact reverse of the
common Parisian taste to which he ministered. However, he had to
please his patrons--and, like a sensible man, he went on producing
these cheap daubs to any extent required, for a living, while he
endeavoured to perfect himself meanwhile for the higher art he was
meditating for the future. In the great galleries of the Louvre at
Paris he found abundant models which he could study in the works of
the old masters; and there, poring over Michael Angelo and
Mantegna, he could recompense himself a little in his spare hours
for the time he was obliged to waste on pinky-white faces and
taffeta gowns. To an artist by nature there is nothing harder than
working perforce against the bent of one's own innate and
instinctive feelings.

In 1840, Millet found his life in Paris still so hard that he
seemed for a time inclined to give up the attempt, and returned to
Greville, where he painted a marine subject of the sort that was
dearest to his heart--a group of sailors mending a sail. Shortly
after, however, he was back in Paris--the record of these years of
hard struggle is not very clear--with his wife, a Cherbourg girl
whom he had imprudently married while still barely able to support
himself in the utmost poverty. It was not till 1844 that the hard-
working painter at last achieved his first success. It was with a
picture of a milkwoman, one of his own favourite peasant subjects;
and the poetry and sympathy which he had thrown into so commonplace
a theme attracted the attention of many critics among the
cultivated Parisian world of art. The "Milkwoman" was exhibited at
the Salon (the great annual exhibition of works of art in Paris,
like that of the Royal Academy in London, but on a far larger
scale); and several good judges of art began immediately to
inquire, "Who is Jean Francois Millet?" Hunting his address out,
a party of friendly critics presented themselves at his lodgings,
only to learn that Madame Millet had just died, and that her
husband, half in despair, had gone back again once more to his
native Norman hills and valleys.

But Millet was the last man on earth to sit down quietly with his
hands folded, waiting for something or other to turn up. At
Cherbourg, he set to work once more, no doubt painting more "pot-
boilers" for the respectable shopkeepers of the neighbourhood--
complacent portraits, perhaps, of a stout gentleman with a large
watch-chain fully displayed, and of a stout lady in a black silk
dress and with a vacant smile; and by hook or by crook he managed
to scrape together a few hundred francs, with which once more he
might return to Paris. But before he did so, he married again,
this time more wisely. His wife, Catharine Lemaire, was a brave
and good woman, who knew how to appreciate her husband, and to
second him well in all his further struggles and endeavours. They
went for a while to Havre, where Millet, in despair of getting
better work, and not ashamed of doing anything honest to pay his
way, actually took to painting sign-boards. In this way he saved
money enough to make a fresh start in Paris. There, he continued
his hard battle against the taste of the time; for French art was
then dominated by the influence of men like Delaroche, or like
Delacroix and Horace Vernet, who had accustomed the public to
pictures of a very lofty, a very romantic, or a very fiery sort;
and there were few indeed who cared for stern and sympathetic
delineations of the French peasant's unlovely life of unremitting
toil, such as Millet loved to set before them. Yet, in spite of
discouragement, he did well to follow out this inner prompting of
his own soul; for in that direction he could do his best work--and
the best work is always the best worth doing in the long run.
There are some minds, of which Franklin's is a good type, so
versatile and so shifty that they can turn with advantage to any
opening that chances to offer, no matter in what direction; and
such minds do right in seizing every opportunity, wherever it
occurs. But there are other minds, of which Gibson and Millet are
excellent examples, naturally restricted to certain definite lines
of thought or work; and such minds do right in persistently
following up their own native talent, and refusing to be led aside
by circumstances into any less natural or less promising channel.

While living in Paris at this time, Millet painted several of his
favourite peasant pictures, amongst others "The Workman's Monday,"
which is a sort of parallel in painting to Burns's "Cotter's
Saturday Night" in poetry. Indeed, there is a great deal in Millet
which strongly reminds one at every step of Burns. Both were born
of the agricultural labouring class; both remained peasants at
heart, in feelings and sympathies, all their lives long; neither
was ashamed of his origin, even in the days of his greatest fame;
painter and poet alike loved best to choose their themes from the
simple life of the poor whose trials and hardships they knew so
well by bitter experience; and in each case they succeeded best in
touching the hearts of others when they did not travel outside
their own natural range of subjects. Only (if Scotchmen will allow
one to say so) there was in Millet a far deeper vein of moral
earnestness than in Burns; he was more profoundly impressed by the
dignity and nobility of labour; in his tender sympathy there was a
touch of solemn grandeur which was wanting in the too genial and
easy-going Ayrshire ploughman.

In 1848, the year of revolutions, Millet painted his famous picture
of "The Winnower," since considered as one of his finest works.
Yet for a long time, though the critics praised it, it could not
find a purchaser; till at last M. Ledru Rollin, a well-known
politician, bought it for what Millet considered the capital price
of five hundred francs (about 20 pounds). It would now fetch a
simply fabulous price, if offered for sale. Soon after this
comparative success Millet decided to leave Paris, where the
surroundings indeed were little fitted to a man of his peculiarly
rural and domestic tastes. He would go where he might see the
living models of his peasant friends for ever before him; where he
could watch them leaning over the plough pressed deep into the
earth; cutting the faggots with stout arms in the thick-grown
copses; driving the cattle home at milking time with weary feet,
along the endless, straight white high-roads of the French rural
districts. At the same time, he must be within easy reach of
Paris; for though he had almost made up his mind not to exhibit any
more at the Salon--people didn't care to see his reapers or his
fishermen--he must still manage to keep himself within call of
possible purchasers; and for this purpose he selected the little
village of Barbizon, on the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau.

The woods of Fontainebleau stand to Paris in somewhat the same
relation that Windsor Great Park stands to London; only, the
scenery is more forest-like, and the trees are big and antique
looking. By the outskirts of this great wood stands the pretty
hamlet of Barbizon, a single long street of small peasant cottages,
built with the usual French rural disregard of beauty or
cleanliness. At the top of the street, in a little three-roomed
house, the painter and his wife settled down quietly; and here they
lived for twenty-seven years, long after Millet's name had grown to
be famous in the history of contemporary French painting. An
English critic, who visited the spot in the days of Millet's
greatest celebrity, was astonished to find the painter, whom he had
come to see, strolling about the village in rustic clothes, and
even wearing the sabots or wooden shoes which are in France the
social mark of the working classes, much as the smock-frock used
once to be in the remoter country districts of England. Perhaps
this was a little bit of affectation on Millet's part--a sort of
proud declaration of the fact that in spite of fame and honours he
still insisted upon counting himself a simple peasant; but if so,
it was, after all, a very pretty and harmless affectation indeed.
Better to see a man sticking pertinaciously to his wooden shoes,
than turning his back upon old friends and old associations in the
days of his worldly prosperity.

At Barbizon Millet's life moved on so quietly that there is nothing
to record in it almost, save a long list of pictures painted, and a
gradual growth, not in popularity (for THAT Millet never really
attained at all), but in the esteem of the best judges, which of
course brought with it at last, first ease, then comfort, and
finally comparative riches. Millet was able now to paint such
subjects as pleased him best, and he threw himself into his work
with all the fervour of his intensely earnest and poetical nature.
Whatever might be the subject which he undertook, he knew how to
handle it so that it became instinct with his own fine feeling for
the life he saw around him. In 1852 he painted his "Man spreading
Manure." In itself, that is not a very exalted or beautiful
occupation; but what Millet saw in it was the man, not the manure--
the toiling, sorrowing, human fellow-being, whose labour and whose
spirit he knew so well how to appreciate. And in this view of the
subject he makes us all at once sympathize. Other pictures of this
period are such as "The Gleaners," "The Reapers," "A Peasant
grafting a Tree," "The Potato Planters," and so forth. These were
very different subjects indeed from the dignified kings and queens
painted by Delaroche, or the fiery battle-pieces of Delacroix but
they touch a chord in our souls which those great painters fail to
strike, and his treatment of them is always truthful, tender,
melancholy, and exquisite.

Bit by bit, French artistic opinion began to recognize the real
greatness of the retiring painter at Barbizon. He came to be
looked upon as a true artist, and his pictures sold every year for
increasingly large prices. Still, he had not been officially
recognized; and in France, where everything, even to art and the
theatre, is under governmental regulation, this want of official
countenance is always severely felt. At last, in 1867, Millet was
awarded the medal of the first class, and was appointed a Chevalier
of the Legion of Honour. The latter distinction carries with it
the right to wear that little tag of ribbon on the coat which all
Frenchmen prize so highly; for to be "decorated," as it is called,
is in France a spur to ambition of something the same sort as a
knighthood or a peerage in England, though of course it lies within
the reach of a far greater number of citizens. There is something
to our ideas rather absurd in the notion of bestowing such a tag of
ribbon on a man of Millet's aims and occupations; but all honours
are honours just according to the estimation of the man who
receives them and the society in which he lives; and Millet no
doubt prized his admission to the Legion of Honour all the more
because it had been so long delayed and so little truckled for.

To the end of his days, Millet never left his beloved Barbizon.
He stopped there, wandering about the fields, watching peasants at
work, imprinting their images firmly upon his eye and brain, and
then going home again to put the figures he had thus observed upon
his vivid canvas. For, strange to say, unlike almost every other
great painter, Millet never painted from a model. Instead of
getting a man or woman to sit for him in the pose he required, he
would go out into the meadows and look at the men and women at
their actual daily occupations; and so keen and acute was his power
of observation, and so retentive was his inner eye, that he could
then recall almost every detail of action or manner as clearly as
if he had the original present in his studio before him. As a
rule, such a practice is not to be recommended to any one who
wishes to draw with even moderate accuracy; constant study of the
actual object, and frequent comparison by glancing from object to
copy, are absolutely necessary for forming a correct draughtsman.
But Millet knew his own way best; and how wonderfully minute and
painstaking must his survey have been when it enabled him to
reproduce the picture of a person afterwards in every detail of
dress or movement.

He did not paint very fast. He preferred doing good work to much
work--an almost invariable trait of all the best workmen. During
the thirty-one years that he worked independently, he produced only
eighty pictures--not more, on an average, than two or three a year.
Compared with the rate at which most successful artists cover
canvas to sell, this was very slow. But then, Millet did not paint
mainly to sell; he painted to satisfy his own strict ideas of what
constituted the highest art. His pictures are usually very simple
in their theme; take, for example, his "Angelus," painted at the
height of his fame, in 1867. A man and a woman are working in the
fields--two poor, simple-minded, weather-beaten, devout French
peasants. It is nightfall; the bell called the "Angelus" rings out
from the church steeple, and the two poor souls, resting for a
moment from their labours, devote a few seconds to the silent
prayers enjoined by their church. That is all; and yet in that one
picture the sorrows, the toils, and the consolations of the needy
French peasantry are summed up in a single glimpse of a pair of
working and praying partners.

Millet died somewhat suddenly in 1875. Strong and hearty as he
was, even the sturdy health of the Norman peasant had been
undermined by the long hardships of his early struggles, and his
constitution gave way at last with comparative rapidity. Still, he
had lived long enough to see his fame established, to enjoy ten
years of ease and honour, and to find his work cordially admired by
all those for whose admiration he could have cared to make an
effort. After his death, the pictures and unfinished sketches in
his studio were sold for 321,000 francs, a little less than 13,000
pounds. The peasant boy of Greville had at last conquered all the
difficulties which obstructed his path, and had fought his own way
to fame and dignity. And in so fighting, he had steadily resisted
the temptation to pander to the low and coarse taste in art of the
men by whom he was surrounded. In spite of cold, and hunger, and
poverty, he had gone on trying to put upon his canvas the purer,
truer, and higher ideas with which his own beautiful soul was
profoundly animated. In that endeavour he nobly succeeded. While
too many contemporary French pictures are vicious and sensual in
tone and feeling, every one of Millet's pictures is a sermon in
colour--a thing to make us sympathize more deeply with our kind,
and to send us away, saddened perhaps, yet ennobled and purified.



At the present time, the neighbourhood of Cleveland, Ohio, the
busiest town along the southern shore of Lake Erie, may fairly rank
as one of the richest agricultural districts in all America. But
when Abram Garfield settled down in the township of Orange in 1830,
it was one of the wildest and most unpeopled woodland regions in
the whole of the United States. Pioneers from the older states had
only just begun to make little clearings for themselves in the
unbroken forest; and land was still so cheap that Abram Garfield
was able to buy himself a tract of fifty acres for no more than 20
pounds. His brother-in-law's family removed there with him; and
the whole strength of the two households was immediately employed
in building a rough log hut for their common accommodation, where
both the Garfields and the Boyntons lived together during the early
days of their occupation. The hut consisted of a mere square box,
made by piling logs on top of one another, the spaces between being
filled with mud, while the roof was formed of loose stone slabs.
Huts of that sort are everywhere common among the isolation of the
American backwoods; and isolated indeed they were, for the
Garfields' nearest neighbours, when they first set up house, lived
as far as seven miles away, across the uncleared forest.

When Abram Garfield came to this lonely lodge in the primaeval
woodlands, he had one son and one daughter. In 1831, the year
after his removal to his new home, a second boy was born into the
family, whom his father named James Abram. Before the baby was
eighteen months old, the father died, and was buried alone, after
the only possible fashion among such solitary settlers, in a corner
of the wheat field which he himself had cleared of its stumps. A
widow's life is always a hard one, but in such a country and under
such conditions it is even harder and more lonely than elsewhere.
Mrs. Garfield's eldest boy, Thomas, was only eleven years old; and
with the aid of this one ineffectual helper, she managed herself to
carry on the farm for many years. Only those who know the hard
toil of a raw American township can have any idea what that really
means. A farmer's work in America is not like a farmer's work in
England. The man who occupies the soil is there at once his own
landlord and his own labourer; and he has to contend with nature as
nobody in England has had to contend with it for the last five
centuries at least. He finds the land covered with trees, which he
has first to fell and sell as timber; then he must dig or burn out
the stumps; clear the plot of boulders and large stones; drain it,
fence it, plough it, and harrow it; build barns for the produce and
sheds for the cows; in short, MAKE his farm, instead of merely
TAKING it. This is labour from which many strong men shrink in
dismay, especially those who have come out fresh from a civilized
and fully occupied land. For a woman and a boy, it is a task that
seems almost above their utmost powers. Nevertheless, Mrs.
Garfield and her son did not fail under it. With her own hands,
the mother split up the young trees info rude triangular rails to
make the rough snake fences of the country--mere zigzags of wood
laid one bit above the other; while the lad worked away bravely at
sowing fall and spring wheat, hoeing Indian corn, and building a
little barn for the harvest before the arrival of the long cold
Ohio winter. To such a family did the future President originally
belong; and with them he must have shared those strong qualities of
perseverance and industry which more than anything else at length
secured his ultimate success in life.

For James Garfield's history differs greatly in one point from that
of most other famous working men, whose stories have been told in
this volume. There is no reason to believe that he was a man of
exceptional or commanding intellect. On the contrary, his mental
powers appear to have been of a very respectable but quite ordinary
and commonplace order. It was not by brilliant genius that James
Garfield made his way up in life; it was rather by hard work,
unceasing energy, high principle, and generous enthusiasm for the
cause of others. Some of the greatest geniuses among working men,
such as Burns, Tannahill, and Chatterton, though they achieved
fame, and though they have enriched the world with many touching
and beautiful works, must be considered to have missed success in
life, so far as their own happiness was concerned, by their
unsteadiness, want of self-control, or lack of fixed principle.
Garfield, on the other hand, was not a genius; but by his sterling
good qualities he nevertheless achieved what cannot but be regarded
as a true success, and left an honourable name behind him in the
history of his country.

However poor an American township may be, it is seldom too poor to
afford its children a moderate and humble education. While James
Garfield was still very young, the settlers in the neighbourhood
decided to import a schoolmaster, whom they "boarded about" between
them, after a fashion very common in rural western districts. The
school-house was only a log hut; the master was a lad of twenty;
and the textbooks were of the very meagrest sort. But at least
James Garfield was thus enabled to read and write, which after all
is the great first step on the road to all possible promotion. The
raw, uncouth Yankee lad who taught the Ohio boys, slept at Widow
Garfield's, with Thomas and James; and the sons of the neighbouring
settlers worked on the farm during the summer months, but took
lessons when the long ice and snow of winter along the lake shore
put a stop almost entirely for the time to their usual labours.

James continued at school till he was twelve years old, and then,
his brother Thomas (being by that time twenty-one) went away by
agreement still further west to Michigan, leaving young Jim to take
his place upon the little farm. The fences were all completed, by
this time; the barn was built, the ground was fairly brought under
cultivation, and it required comparatively little labour to keep
the land cropped after the rough fashion which amply satisfies
American pioneers, with no rent to pay, and only their bare living
to make out of the soil. Thomas was going to fell trees in
Michigan, to clear land there for a farmer; and he proposed to use
his earnings (when he got them) for the purpose of building a
"frame house" (that is to say, a house built of planks) instead of
the existing log hut. It must be added, in fairness, that hard as
were the circumstances under which the young Garfields lived, they
were yet lucky in their situation in a new country, where wages
were high, and where the struggle for life is far less severe or
competitive than in old settled lands like France and England.
Thomas, in fact; would get boarded for nothing in Michigan, and so
would be able easily to save almost all his high wages for the
purpose of building the frame house.

So James had to take to the farm in summer, while in the winter he
began to work as a sort of amateur carpenter in a small way. As
yet he had lived entirely in the backwoods, and had never seen a
town or even a village; but his education in practical work had
begun from his very babyhood, and he was handy after the usual
fashion of American or colonial boys--ready to turn his hand to
anything that happened to present itself. In new countries, where
everybody has not got neighbours and workmen within call, such
rough-and-ready handiness is far more common than in old England.
The one carpenter of the neighbourhood asked James to help him, on
the proud day when Tom brought back his earnings from Michigan, and
set about the building of the frame house, for which he had already
collected the unhewn timber. From that first beginning, by the
time he was thirteen, James was promoted to assist in building a
barn; and he might have taken permanently to a carpenter's life,
had it not been that his boyish passion for reading had inspired
him with an equal passion for going to sea. He had read Marryatt's
novels and other sailor tales--what boy has not?--and he was fired
with the usual childish desire to embark upon that wonderful life
of chasing buccaneers, fighting pirates, capturing prizes, or
hunting hidden treasure, which is a lad's brilliantly coloured
fancy picture of an everyday sailor's wet, cold, cheerless

At last, when James was about fifteen, his longing for the sea grew
so strong that his mother, by way of a compromise, allowed him to
go and try his luck with the Lake Erie captains at Cleveland.
Shipping on the great lakes, where one can see neither bank from
the middle of the wide blue sheet of water, and where wrecks are
unhappily as painfully frequent as on our own coasts, was quite
sufficiently like going to sea to suit the adventurous young
backwoodsman to the top of his bent. But when he got to Cleveland,
a fortunate disappointment awaited him. The Cleveland captains
declined his services in such vigorous seafaring language (not
unmixed with many unnecessary oaths), that he was glad enough to
give up the idea of sailoring, and take a place as driver of a
canal boat from Cleveland to Pittsburg in Pennsylvania, the boat
being under the charge of one of his own cousins. Copper ore was
then largely mined on Lake Superior, where it is very abundant,
carried by ship to Cleveland, down the chain of lakes, and there
transferred to canal boats, which took it on to Pittsburg, the
centre of a great coal and manufacturing district in Pennsylvania,
to be smelted and employed in various local arts. Young Garfield
stuck for a little while to the canal business. He plodded along
wearily upon the bank, driving his still wearier horse before him,
and carrying ore down to Pittsburg with such grace as he best
might; but it didn't somehow quite come up to his fancy picture of
the seaman's life. It was dull and monotonous, and he didn't care
for it much. In genuine American language, "he didn't find it up
to sample." The sea might be very well in its way; but a canal was
a very different matter indeed. So after a fair trial, James
finally gave the business up, and returned to his mother on the
little homestead, ill and tired with his long tramping.

While he was at home, the schoolmaster of the place, who saw that
the lad had abilities, was never tired of urging him to go to
school, and do himself justice by getting himself a first-rate
education, or at least as good a one as could be obtained in
America. James was ready enough to take this advice, if the means
were forthcoming; but how was he to do so? "Oh, that's easy
enough," said young Bates, the master. "You'll only have to work
out of hours as a carpenter, take odd jobs in your vacations, live
plainly, and there you are." In England there are few schools
where such a plan would be practicable; but in rough-and-ready
America, where self-help is no disgrace, there are many, and they
are all well attended. In the neighbouring town of Chester, a
petty Baptist sect had started a young school which they named
Geauga Seminary (there are no plain schools in America--they are
all "academies" or "institutes"); and to this simple place young
Garfield went, to learn and work as best he might for his own
advancement. A very strange figure he must then have cut, indeed;
for a person who saw him at the time described him as wearing a
pair of trousers he had long outworn, rough cow-hide boots, a
waistcoat much too short for him, and a thread-bare coat, with
sleeves that only reached a little below the elbows. Of such stuff
as that, with a stout heart and an eager brain, the budding
presidents of the United States are sometimes made.

James soon found himself humble lodgings at an old woman's in
Chester, and he also found himself a stray place at a carpenter's
shop in the town, where he was able to do three hours' work out of
school time every day, besides giving up the whole of his Saturday
holiday to regular labour. It was hard work, this schooling and
carpentering side by side; but James throve upon it; and at the end
of the first term he was not only able to pay all his bill for
board and lodging, but also to carry home a few dollars in his
pocket by way of savings.

James stopped three years at the "seminary" at Chester; and in the
holidays he employed himself by teaching in the little township
schools among the country districts. There is generally an opening
for young students to earn a little at such times by instructing
younger boys than themselves in reading, writing, and arithmetic;
and the surrounding farmers, who want schooling for their boys, are
glad enough to take the master in on the "boarding round" system,
for the sake of his usefulness in overlooking the lads in the
preparation of their home lessons. It is a simple patriarchal
life, very different from anything we know in England; and though
Ohio was by this time a far more settled and populated place than
when Abram Garfield first went there, it was still quite possible
to manage in this extremely primitive and family fashion. The fact
is, though luxuries were comparatively unknown, food was cheap and
abundant; and a young teacher who was willing to put his heart into
his work could easily earn more than enough to live upon in rough
comfort. Sometimes the school-house was a mere log hut, like that
in which young Garfield had been born; but, at any rate, it was
work to do, and food to eat, and that alone was a great thing for
a lad who meant to make his own way in the world by his own

Near the end of his third year at Chester, James met, quite
accidentally, with a young man who had come from a little embryo
"college," of the sort so common in rising American towns, at a
place called Hiram in Ohio. American schools are almost as
remarkable as American towns for the oddity and ugliness of their
names; and this "college" was known by the queer and meaningless
title of the "Eclectic Institute." It was conducted by an obscure
sect who dub themselves "The Disciples' Church," to which young
Garfield's father and mother had both belonged. His casual
acquaintance urged upon him strongly the desirability of attending
the institute; and James, who had already begun to learn Latin, and
wished to learn more, was easily persuaded to try this particular
school rather than any other.

In August, 1851, James Garfield, then aged nearly twenty, presented
himself at the "Eclectic Institute," in the farm-labourer's clothes
which were his only existing raiment. He asked to see the
"president" of the school, and told him plainly that he wished to
come there for education, but that he was poor, and if he came, he
must work for his living. "What can you do?" asked the president.
"Sweep the floors, light the fires, ring the bell, and make myself
generally useful," answered the young backwoodsman. The president,
pleased with his eagerness, promised to try him for a fortnight;
and at the end of the fortnight, Garfield had earned his teaching
so well that he was excused from all further fees during the
remainder of his stay at the little institute. His post was by no
mean an easy one, for he was servant-of-all-work as well as
student; but he cared very little for that as long as he could gain
the means for self-improvement.

Hiram was a small town, as ugly as its name. Twelve miles from a
railway, a mere agricultural centre, of the rough back-country
sort, all brand new and dreary looking, with a couple of wooden
churches, half a dozen wooden shops, two new intersecting streets
with wooden sidewalks, and that was all. The "institute" was a
square brick block, planted incongruously in the middle of an
Indian-corn plantation; and the students were the sons and
daughters of the surrounding farmers, for (as in most western
schools) both sexes were here educated together. But the place
suited Garfield far better than an older and more dignified
university would have done. The other students knew no more than
he did, so that he did not feel himself at a disadvantage; they
were dressed almost as plainly as himself; and during the time he
was at Hiram he worked away with a will at Latin, Greek, and the
higher mathematics, so as to qualify himself for a better place
hereafter. Meanwhile, the local carpenter gave him plenty of
planing to do, with which he managed to pay his way; and as he had
to rise before five every morning to ring the first bell, he was
under no danger of oversleeping himself. By 1853, he had made so
much progress in his studies that he was admitted as a sort of
pupil teacher, giving instruction himself in the English department
and in rudimentary Greek and Latin, while he went on with his own
studies with the aid of the other teachers.

James had now learnt as much as the little "Eclectic Institute"
could possibly teach him, and he began to think of going to some
better college in the older-settled and more cultivated eastern
states, where he might get an education somewhat higher than was
afforded him by the raw "seminaries" and "academies" of his native
Ohio. True, his own sect, the "Disciples' Church," had got up a
petty university of their own, "Bethany College"--such self-styled
colleges swarm all over the United States; but James didn't much
care for the idea of going to it. "I was brought up among the
Disciples," he said; "I have mixed chiefly among them; I know
little of other people; it will enlarge my views and give me more
liberal feelings if a try a college elsewhere, conducted otherwise;
if I see a little of the rest of the world." Moreover, those were
stirring times in the States. The slavery question was beginning
to come uppermost. The men of the free states in the north and
west were beginning to say among themselves that they would no
longer tolerate that terrible blot upon American freedom--the
enslavement of four million negroes in the cotton-growing south.
James Garfield felt all his soul stirred within him by this great
national problem--the greatest that any modern nation has ever had
to solve for itself. Now, his own sect, the Disciples, and their
college, Bethany, were strongly tinctured with a leaning in favour
of slavery, which young James Garfield utterly detested. So he
made up his mind to having nothing to do with the accursed thing,
but to go east to some New England college, where he would mix
among men of culture, and where he would probably find more
congenial feelings on the slavery question.

Before deciding, he wrote to three eastern colleges, amongst others
to Yale, the only American university which by its buildings and
surroundings can lay any claim to compare, even at a long distance,
in beauty and associations, with the least among European
universities. The three colleges gave him nearly similar answers;
but one of them, in addition to the formal statement of terms and
so forth, added the short kindly sentence, "If you come here, we
shall be glad to do what we can for you." It was only a small
polite phrase; but it took the heart of the rough western boy.
If other things were about the same, he said, he would go to the
college which offered him, as it were, a friendly grasp of the
hand. He had saved a little money at Hiram; and he proposed now to
go on working for his living, as he had hitherto done, side by side
with his regular studies. But his brother, who was always kind and
thoughtful to him, would not hear of this. Thomas had prospered
meanwhile in his own small way, and he insisted upon lending James
such a sum as would cover his necessary expenses for two years at
an eastern university. James insured his life for the amount, so
that Thomas might not be a loser by his brotherly generosity in
case of his death before repayment could be made; and then, with
the money safe in his pocket, he started off for his chosen goal,
the Williams College, in one of the most beautiful and hilly parts
of Massachusetts.

During the three years that Garfield was at this place, he studied
hard and regularly, so much so that at one time his brain showed
symptoms of giving way under the constant strain. In the
vacations, he took a trip into Vermont, a romantic mountain state,
where he opened a writing school at a little country village; and
another into the New York State, where he engaged himself in a
similar way at a small town on the banks of the lovely Hudson
river. At college, in spite of his rough western dress and
manners, he earned for himself the reputation of a thoroughly good
fellow. Indeed, geniality and warmth of manner, qualities always
much prized by the social American people, were very marked traits
throughout of Garfield's character, and no doubt helped him greatly
in after life in, rising to the high summit which he finally
reached. It was here, too, that he first openly identified himself
with the anti-slavery party, which was then engaged in fighting out
the important question whether any new slave states should be
admitted to the Union. Charles Sumner, the real grand central
figure of that noble struggle, was at that moment thundering in
Congress against the iniquitous extension of the slave-holding
area, and was employing all his magnificent powers to assail the
abominable Fugitive Slave Bill, for the return of runaway negroes,
who escaped north, into the hands of their angry masters. The
American colleges are always big debating societies, where
questions of politics are regularly argued out among the students;
and Garfield put himself at the head of the anti-slavery movement
at his own little university. He spoke upon the subject frequently
before the assembled students, and gained himself a considerable
reputation, not only as a zealous advocate of the rights of the
negro, but also as an eloquent orator and a powerful argumentative

In 1856, Garfield took his degree at Williams College, and had now
finished his formal education. By that time, he was a fair though
not a great scholar, competently read in the Greek and Latin
literatures, and with a good knowledge of French and German. He
was now nearly twenty-five years old; and his experience was large
and varied enough to make him already into a man of the world. He
had been farmer, carpenter, canal driver, and student; he had seen
the primitive life of the forest, and the more civilized society of
the Atlantic shore; he had taught in schools in many states; he had
supported himself for years by his own labours; and now, at an age
when many young men are, as a rule, only just beginning life on
their own account, he had practically raised himself from his own
class into the class of educated and cultivated gentlemen. As soon
as he had taken his degree, his old friends, the trustees of the
"Eclectic Institute" at Hiram, proud of their former sweeper and
bell-ringer, called him back at a good salary as teacher of Greek
and Latin. It was then just ten years since he had toiled wearily
along the tow-path of the Ohio and Pennsylvania Canal.

As a teacher, Garfield seems to have been eminently successful.
His genial character and good-natured way of explaining things made
him a favourite at once with the rough western lads he had to
teach, who would perhaps have thought a more formal teacher stiff
and stuckup. Garfield was one of themselves; he knew their ways
and their manners; he could make allowances for their awkwardness
and bluntness of speech; he could adopt towards them the exact tone
which put them at home at once with their easy-going instructor.
Certainly, he inspired all his pupils with an immense love and
devotion for him; and it is less easy to inspire those feelings in
a sturdy Ohio farmer than in most other varieties of the essentially
affectionate human species.

From 1857 to 1861, Garfield remained at Hiram, teaching and working
very hard. His salary, though a good one for the time and place,
was still humble according to our English notions; but it sufficed
for his needs; and as yet it would have seemed hardly credible that
in only twenty years the Ohio schoolmaster would rise to be
President of the United States. Indeed, it is only in America,
that country of peculiarly unencumbered political action, where
every kind of talent is most rapidly recognized and utilized, that
this particular form of swift promotion is really possible. But
while Garfield was still at his Institute, he was taking a vigorous
part in local politics, especially on the slavery question.
Whenever there was a political meeting at Hiram, the young
schoolmaster was always called upon to take the anti-slavery side;
and he delivered himself so effectively upon this favourite topic
that he began to be looked upon as a rising political character.
In America, politics are less confined to any one class than in
Europe; and there would be nothing unusual in the selection of a
schoolmaster who could talk to a seat in the local or general
legislature. The practice of paying members makes it possible for
comparatively poor men to offer themselves as candidates; and
politics are thus a career, in the sense of a livelihood, far more
than in any other country.

In 1858, Garfield married a lady who had been a fellow-student of
his in earlier days, and to whom he had been long engaged. In the
succeeding year, he got an invitation which greatly pleased and
flattered him. The authorities at Williams College asked him to
deliver the "Master's Oration" at their annual festival; an unusual
compliment to pay to so young a man, and one who had so recently
taken his degree. It was the first opportunity he had ever had for
a pleasure-trip, and taking his young wife with him (proud indeed,
we may be sure, at this earliest honour of his life, the precursor
of so many more) he went to Massachusetts by a somewhat roundabout
but very picturesque route, down the Great Lakes, through the
Thousand Islands, over the St. Lawrence rapids, and on to Quebec,
the only town in America which from its old-world look can lay
claim to the sort of beauty which so many ancient European cities
abundantly possess. He delivered his address with much applause,
and returned to his Ohio home well satisfied with this pleasant

Immediately on his return, the speech-making schoolmaster was met
by a very sudden and unexpected request that he would allow himself
to be nominated for the State legislature. Every state of the
Union has its own separate little legislative body, consisting of
two houses; and it was to the upper of these, the Senate of Ohio,
that James Garfield was asked to become a candidate. The
schoolmaster consented; and as those were times of very great
excitement, when the South was threatening to secede if a President
hostile to the slave-owning interest was elected, the contest was
fought out almost entirely along those particular lines. Garfield
was returned as senator by a large majority, and took his seat in
the Ohio Senate in January, 1860. There, his voice was always
raised against slavery, and he was recognized at once as one of the
ablest speakers in the whole legislature.

In 1861, the great storm burst over the States. In the preceding
November, Abraham Lincoln had been elected President. Lincoln was
himself, like Garfield, a self-made man, who had risen from the
very same pioneer labourer class;--a wood-cutter and rail-splitter
in the backwoods of Illinois, he had become a common boatman on the
Mississippi, and had there improved his mind by reading eagerly in
all his spare moments. With one of those rapid rises so commonly
made by self-taught lads in America, he had pushed his way into the
Illinois legislature by the time he was twenty-five, and qualified
himself to practise as a barrister at Springfield. His shrewd
original talents had raised him with wonderful quickness into the
front ranks of his own party; and when the question between the
North and South rose into the region of practical politics, Lincoln
was selected by the republicans (the antislavery group) as their
candidate for the Presidency of the United States. This selection
was a very significant one in several ways; Lincoln was a very
strong opponent of slavery, and his candidature showed the southern
slave-owners that if the Republicans were successful in the
contest, a vigorous move against the slave-holding oligarchy would
at once be made. But it was also significant in the fact that
Lincoln was a western man; it was a sign that the farmers and
grangers of the agricultural west were beginning to wake up
politically and throw themselves into the full current of American
State affairs. On both these grounds, Lincoln's nomination must
have been deeply interesting to Garfield, whose own life had been
so closely similar, and who was destined, twenty years later, to
follow him to the same goal.

Lincoln was duly elected, and the southern states began to secede.
The firing upon Fort Sumter by the South Carolina secessionists was
the first blow struck in that terrible war. Every man who was
privileged to live in America at that time (like the present
writer) cannot recall without a glow of recollection the memory of
the wild eagerness with which the North answered that note of
defiance, and went forth with overpowering faith and eagerness to
fight the good fight on behalf of human freedom. Such a spontaneous
outburst of the enthusiasm of humanity has never been known, before
or since. President Lincoln immediately called for a supply of
seventy-five thousand men. In the Ohio Senate, his message was read
amid tumultuous applause; and the moment the sound of the cheers
died away, Garfield, as natural spokesman of the republican party,
sprang to his feet, and moved in a short and impassioned speech that
the state of Ohio should contribute twenty thousand men and three
million dollars as its share in the general preparations. The
motion was immediately carried with the wildest demonstrations of
fervour, and Ohio, with all the rest of the North, rose like one man
to put down by the strong hand the hideous traffic in human flesh
and blood.

During those fiery and feverish days, every citizen of the loyal
states felt himself to be, in reserve at least, a possible soldier.
It was necessary to raise, drill, and render effective in an
incredibly short time a large army; and it would have been
impossible to do so had it not been for the eager enthusiasm with
which civilians of every sort enlisted, and threw themselves into
their military duties with almost incredible devotion. Garfield
felt that he must bear his own part in the struggle by fighting it
out, not in the Senate but on the field; and his first move was to
obtain a large quantity of arms from the arsenal in the doubtfully
loyal state of Missouri. In this mission he was completely
successful; and he was next employed to raise and organize two new
regiments of Ohio infantry. Garfield, of course, knew absolutely
nothing of military matters at that time; but it was not a moment
to stand upon questions of precedence or experience; the born
organizers came naturally to the front, and Garfield was one of
them. Indeed, the faculty for organization seems innate in the
American people, so that when it became necessary to raise and
equip so large a body of men at a few weeks' notice, the task was
undertaken offhand by lawyers, doctors, shopkeepers, and
schoolmasters, without a minute's hesitation, and was performed on
the whole with distinguished success.

When Garfield had organized his regiments, the Governor asked him
to accept the post of colonel to one of them. But Garfield at
first mistrusted his own powers in this direction. How should he,
who had hitherto been poring chiefly over the odes of Horace (his
favourite poet), now take so suddenly to leading a thousand men
into actual battle? He would accept only a subordinate position,
he said, if a regular officer of the United States army, trained at
the great military academy at West Point, was placed in command.
So the Governor told him to go among his own farmer friends in his
native district, and recruit a third regiment, promising to find
him a West Point man as colonel, if one was available. Garfield
accepted the post of lieutenant-colonel, raised the 42nd Ohio
regiment, chiefly among his own old pupils at Hiram, and set off
for the seat of operations. At the last moment the Governor failed
to find a regular officer to lead these raw recruits, every
available man being already occupied, and Garfield found himself,
against his will, compelled to undertake the responsible task of
commanding the regiment. He accepted the task thus thrust upon
him, and as if by magic transformed himself at once from a
schoolmaster into an able soldier.

In less than one month, Colonel Garfield took his raw troops into
action in the battle of Middle Creek, and drove the Confederate
General Marshall, with far larger numbers, out of his intrenchments,
compelling him to retreat into Virginia. This timely victory did
much to secure the northern advance along the line of the
Mississippi. During the whole of the succeeding campaign Garfield
handled his regiment with such native skill and marked success that
the Government appointed him Brigadier-General for his bravery and
military talent. In spite of all his early disadvantages, he had
been the youngest member of the Ohio Senate, and now he was the
youngest general in the whole American army.

Shortly after, the important victory of Chickamauga was gained
almost entirely by the energy and sagacity of General Garfield.
For this service, he was raised one degree in dignity, receiving
his commission as Major-General. He served altogether only two
years and three months in the army.

But while Garfield was at the head of his victorious troops in
Kentucky, his friends in Ohio were arranging, without his consent
or knowledge, to call him away to a very different sphere of work.
They nominated Garfield as their candidate for the United States
House of Representatives at Washington. The General himself was
unwilling to accede to their request, when it reached him. He
thought he could serve the country better in the field than in
Congress. Besides, he was still a comparatively poor man. His
salary as Major-General was double that of a member of the House;
and for his wife's and children's sake he hesitated to accept the
lesser position. Had he continued in the army to the end of the
war, he would doubtless have risen to the very highest honours of
that stirring epoch. But President Lincoln was very anxious that
Garfield should come into the Congress, where his presence would
greatly strengthen the President's hands; and with a generous self-
denial which well bespeaks his thorough loyalty, Garfield gave
up his military post and accepted a place in the House of
Representatives. He took his seat in December, 1863.

For seventeen years, General Garfield sat in the general
legislature of the United States as one of the members for Ohio.
During all that time, he distinguished himself most honourably as
the fearless advocate of honest government, and the pronounced
enemy of those underhand dodges and wire-pulling machinery which
are too often the disgrace of American politics. He was opposed to
all corruption and chicanery, especially to the bad system of
rewarding political supporters with places under Government, which
has long been the chief blot upon American republican institutions.
As a person of stalwart honesty and singleness of purpose, he made
himself respected by both sides alike. Politically speaking,
different men will judge very differently of Garfield's acts in the
House of Representatives. Englishmen especially cannot fail to
remark that his attitude towards ourselves was almost always one of
latent hostility; but it is impossible for anybody to deny that his
conduct was uniformly guided by high principle, and a constant
deference to what he regarded as the right course of action.

In 1880, when General Garfield had already risen to be the
acknowledged leader of the House of Representatives, his Ohio
supporters put him in nomination for the upper chamber, the Senate.
They wished Garfield to come down to the state capital and canvas
for support; but this the General would not hear of. "I never
asked for any place yet," he said, "except the post of bell-ringer
and general sweeper at the Hiram Institute, and I won't ask for one
now." But at least, his friends urged, he would be on the spot to
encourage and confer with his partisans. No, Garfield answered; if
they wished to elect him they must elect him in his absence; he
would avoid all appearance, even, of angling for office. The
result was that all the other candidates withdrew, and Garfield was
elected by acclamation.

After the election he went down to Ohio and delivered a speech to
his constituents, a part of which strikingly illustrates the
courage and independence of the backwoods schoolmaster. "During
the twenty years that I have been in public life," he said, "almost
eighteen of it in the Congress of the United States, I have tried
to do one thing. Whether I was mistaken or otherwise, it has been
the plan of my life to follow my conviction, at whatever personal
cost to myself. I have represented for many years a district in
Congress whose approbation I greatly desired; but though it may
seem, perhaps, a little egotistical to say it, I yet desired still
more the approbation of one person, and his name was Garfield. He
is the only man that I am compelled to sleep with, and eat with,
and live with, and die with; and if I could not have his
approbation I should have bad companionship."

Only one higher honour could now fall to the lot of a citizen of
the United States. The presidency was the single post to which
Garfield's ambition could still aspire. That honour came upon him,
like all the others, without his seeking; and it came, too, quite
unexpectedly. Five months later, in the summer of 1880, the
National Republican Convention met to select a candidate for their
party at the forthcoming presidential election. Every four years,
before the election, each party thus meets to decide upon the man
to whom its votes will be given at the final choice. After one or
two ineffectual attempts to secure unanimity in favour of other and
more prominent politicians, the Convention with one accord chose
James Garfield for its candidate--a nomination which was quite as
great a surprise to Garfield himself as to all the rest of the
world. He was elected President of the United States in November,

It was a marvellous rise for the poor canal boy, the struggling
student, the obscure schoolmaster, thus to find himself placed at
the head of one among the greatest nations of the earth. He was
still less than fifty, and he might reasonably have looked forward
to many years of a happy, useful, and honourable life. Nevertheless,
it is impossible to feel that Garfield's death was other than a
noble and enviable one. He was cut off suddenly in the very moment
of his brightest success, before the cares and disappointments of
office had begun to dim the pleasure of his first unexpected
triumph. He died a martyr to a good and honest cause, and his
death-bed was cheered and alleviated by the hushed sorrow and
sympathy of an entire nation--one might almost truthfully add, of
the whole civilized world.

From the first, President Garfield set his face sternly against the
bad practice of rewarding political adherents by allowing them to
nominate officials in the public service--a species of covert
corruption sanctioned by long usage in the United States. This
honest and independent conduct raised up for him at once a host of
enemies among his own party. The talk which they indulged in
against the President produced a deep effect upon a half-crazy and
wildly egotistic French-Canadian of the name of Guiteau, who had
emigrated to the States and become an American citizen. General
Garfield had arranged a trip to New England in the summer of 1881,
to attend the annual festival at his old school, the Williams
College, Massachusetts; and for that purpose he left the White
House (the President's official residence at Washington) on July 2.
As he stood in the station of the Baltimore and Potomac Railway,
arm in arm with Mr. Blaine, the Secretary of State, Guiteau
approached him casually, and, drawing out a pistol, fired two shots
in rapid succession, one of which took effect on the President
above the third rib. The assassin was at once secured, and the
wounded President was carried back carefully to the White House.

Almost everybody who reads this book will remember the long
suspense, while the President lay stretched upon his bed for weeks
and weeks together, with all Europe and America watching anxiously
for any sign of recovery, and sympathizing deeply with the wounded
statesman and his devoted wife. Every effort that was possible was
made to save him, but the wound was past all surgical skill. After
lingering long with the stored-up force of a good constitution,
James Garfield passed away at last of blood-poisoning, more deeply
regretted perhaps than any other man whom the present generation
can remember.

It is only in America that precisely such a success as Garfield's
is possible for people who spring, as he did, from the midst of the
people. In old-settled and wealthy countries we must be content,
at best, with slower and less lofty promotion. But the lesson of
Garfield's life is not for America only, but for the whole world of
workers everywhere. The same qualities which procured his success
there will produce a different, but still a solid success, anywhere
else. As Garfield himself fittingly put it, with his usual keen
American common sense, "There is no more common thought among young
people than the foolish one, that by-and-by something will turn up
by which they will suddenly achieve fame or fortune. No, young
gentlemen; things don't turn up in this world unless somebody turns
them up."



It is the object of this volume to set forth the lives of working
men who through industry, perseverance, and high principle have
raised themselves by their own exertions from humble beginnings.
Raised themselves! Yes; but to what? Not merely, let us hope, to
wealth and position, not merely to worldly respect and high office,
but to some conspicuous field of real usefulness to their fellow
men. Those whose lives we have hitherto examined did so raise
themselves by their own strenuous energy and self-education.
Either, like Garfield and Franklin, they served the State zealously
in peace or war; or else, like Stephenson and Telford, they
improved human life by their inventions and engineering works; or,
again, like Herschel and Fraunhofer, they added to the wide field
of scientific knowledge; or finally, like Millet and Gibson, they
beautified the world with their noble and inspiring artistic
productions. But in every one of these cases, the men whose lives
we have been here considering did actually rise, sooner or later,
from the class of labourers into some other class socially and
monetarily superior to it. Though they did great good in other
ways to others, they did still as a matter of fact succeed
themselves in quitting the rank in which they were born, and rising
to some other rank more or less completely above it.

Now, it will be clear to everybody that so long as our present
social arrangements exist, it must be impossible for the vast mass
of labouring men ever to do anything of the sort. It is to be
desired, indeed, that every labouring man should by industry and
thrift secure independence in the end for himself and his family;
but however much that may be the case, it will still rest certain
that the vast mass of men will necessarily remain workers to the
last; and that no attempt to raise individual working men above
their own class into the professional or mercantile classes can
ever greatly benefit the working masses as a whole. What is most
of all desirable is that the condition, the aims, and the tastes of
working men, as working men, should be raised and bettered; that
without necessarily going outside their own ranks, they should
become more prudent, more thrifty, better educated, and wider-
minded than many of their predecessors have been in the past.
Under such circumstances, it is surely well to set before ourselves
some examples of working men who, while still remaining members of
their own class, have in the truest and best sense "raised
themselves" so as to attain the respect and admiration of others
whether their equals or superiors in the artificial scale. Dr.
Smiles, who has done much to illustrate the history of the picked
men among the labouring orders, has chosen two or three lives of
such a sort for investigation, and from them we may select a single
one as an example of a working man's career rendered conspicuous by
qualities other than those that usually secure external success.

Thomas Edward, associate of the Linnean Society, though a Scotchman
all his life long, was accidentally born (so to speak) at Gosport,
near Portsmouth, on Christmas Day, 1814. His father was in the
Fifeshire militia, and in those warlike days, when almost all the
regulars were on the Continent, fighting Napoleon, militia
regiments used to be ordered about the country from one place to

Book of the day: