Part 3 out of 3
what was said at the beginning of it, the imperfect marks will
convey to you some sense of what I long to say. We had heard of
your illness through Miss Moore, and I was therefore very glad to
learn that you are now quite well; do not run too many risks or make
your happiness depend too much upon dangers, or the hunting of them.
Sometimes the very thinking of you, and what you may be about,
wearies me with fears, and then the cogitations pause and change,
but without giving me rest. I know that much of this depends upon
my own worn-out nature, and I do not know why I write it, save that
when I write to you I cannot help thinking it, and the thoughts
stand in the way of other matter.
* * * * * * *
'See what a strange desultory epistle I am writing to you, and yet I
feel so weary that I long to leave my desk and go to the couch.
'My dear wife and Jane desire their kindest remembrances: I hear
them in the next room:... I forget--but not you, my dear Tyndall,
for I am
This weariness subsided when he relinquished his work, and I have a
cheerful letter from him, written in the autumn of 1865. But
towards the close of that year he had an attack of illness, from
which he never completely rallied. He continued to attend the
Friday Evening Meetings, but the advance of infirmity was apparent
to us all. Complete rest became finally essential to him, and he
ceased to appear among us. There was no pain in his decline to
trouble the memory of those who loved him. Slowly and peacefully he
sank towards his final rest, and when it came, his death was a
falling asleep. In the fulness of his honours and of his age he
quitted us; the good fight fought, the work of duty--shall I not say
of glory?--done. The 'Jane' referred to in the foregoing letter is
Faraday's niece, Miss Jane Barnard, who with an affection raised
almost to religious devotion watched him and tended him to the end.
I saw Mr. Faraday for the first time on my return from Marburg in 1850.
I came to the Royal Institution, and sent up my card, with a copy of
the paper which Knoblauch and myself had just completed. He came
down and conversed with me for half an hour. I could not fail to
remark the wonderful play of intellect and kindly feeling exhibited
by his countenance. When he was in good health the question of his
age would never occur to you. In the light and laughter of his eyes
you never thought of his grey hairs. He was then on the point of
publishing one of his papers on Magnecrystallic action, and he had
time to refer in a flattering Note to the memoir I placed in his
hands. I returned to Germany, worked there for nearly another year,
and in June, 1851, came back finally from Berlin to England. Then,
for the first time, and on my way to the meeting of the British
Association, at Ipswich, I met a man who has since made his mark
upon the intellect of his time; who has long been, and who by the
strong law of natural affinity must continue to be, a brother to me.
We were both without definite outlook at the time, needing proper
work, and only anxious to have it to perform. The chairs of Natural
History and of Physics being advertised as vacant in the University
of Toronto, we applied for them, he for the one, I for the other;
but, possibly guided by a prophetic instinct, the University
authorities declined having anything to do with either of us.
If I remember aright, we were equally unlucky elsewhere.
One of Faraday's earliest letters to me had reference to this
Toronto business, which he thought it unwise in me to neglect.
But Toronto had its own notions, and in 1853, at the instance of
Dr. Bence Jones, and on the recommendation of Faraday himself,
a chair of Physics at the Royal Institution was offered to me.
I was tempted at the same time to go elsewhere, but a strong
attraction drew me to his side. Let me say that it was mainly his
and other friendships, precious to me beyond all expression, that
caused me to value my position here more highly than any other that
could be offered to me in this land. Nor is it for its honour,
though surely that is great, but for the strong personal ties that
bind me to it, that I now chiefly prize this place. You might not
credit me were I to tell you how lightly I value the honour of being
Faraday's successor compared with the honour of having been
Faraday's friend. His friendship was energy and inspiration;
his 'mantle' is a burden almost too heavy to be borne.
Sometimes during the last year of his life, by the permission or
invitation of Mrs. Faraday, I went up to his rooms to see him.
The deep radiance, which in his time of strength flashed with such
extraordinary power from his countenance, had subsided to a calm and
kindly light, by which my latest memory of him is warmed and
illuminated. I knelt one day beside him on the carpet and placed my
hand upon his knee; he stroked it affectionately, smiled, and
murmured, in a low soft voice, the last words that I remember as
having been spoken to me by Michael Faraday.
It was my wish and aspiration to play the part of Schiller to this
Goethe: and he was at times so strong and joyful--his body so
active, and his intellect so clear--as to suggest to me the thought
that he, like Goethe, would see the younger man laid low. Destiny
ruled otherwise, and now he is but a memory to us all. Surely no
memory could be more beautiful. He was equally rich in mind and
heart. The fairest traits of a character sketched by Paul, found in
him perfect illustration. For he was 'blameless, vigilant, sober,
of good behaviour, apt to teach, not given to filthy lucre.' He had
not a trace of worldly ambition; he declared his duty to his
Sovereign by going to the levee once a year, but beyond this he
never sought contact with the great. The life of his spirit and of
his intellect was so full, that the things which men most strive
after were absolutely indifferent to him. 'Give me health and a
day,' says the brave Emerson, 'and I will make the pomp of emperors
ridiculous.' In an eminent degree Faraday could say the same.
What to him was the splendour of a palace compared with a
thunderstorm upon Brighton Downs?--what among all the appliances of
royalty to compare with the setting sun? I refer to a thunderstorm
and a sunset, because these things excited a kind of ecstasy in his
mind, and to a mind open to such ecstasy the pomps and pleasures of
the world are usually of small account. Nature, not education,
rendered Faraday strong and refined. A favourite experiment of his
own was representative of himself. He loved to show that water in
crystallizing excluded all foreign ingredients, however intimately
they might be mixed with it. Out of acids, alkalis, or saline
solutions, the crystal came sweet and pure. By some such natural
process in the formation of this man, beauty and nobleness coalesced,
to the exclusion of everything vulgar and low. He did not learn his
gentleness in the world, for he withdrew himself from its culture;
and still this land of England contained no truer gentleman than he.
Not half his greatness was incorporate in his science, for science
could not reveal the bravery and delicacy of his heart.
But it is time that I should end these weak words, and lay my poor
garland on the grave of this
Just and faithful knight of God.