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Self Help by Samuel Smiles

Part 2 out of 7

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however, seriously affected by a commercial crisis which occurred,
and it passed into other hands, on which Heilmann returned to his
family at Mulhouse.

He had in the mean time been occupying much of his leisure with
inventions, more particularly in connection with the weaving of
cotton and the preparation of the staple for spinning. One of his
earliest contrivances was an embroidering-machine, in which twenty
needles were employed, working simultaneously; and he succeeded in
accomplishing his object after about six months' labour. For this
invention, which he exhibited at the Exposition of 1834, he
received a gold medal, and was decorated with the Legion of Honour.
Other inventions quickly followed--an improved loom, a machine for
measuring and folding fabrics, an improvement of the "bobbin and
fly frames" of the English spinners, and a weft winding-machine,
with various improvements in the machinery for preparing, spinning,
and weaving silk and cotton. One of his most ingenious
contrivances was his loom for weaving simultaneously two pieces of
velvet or other piled fabric, united by the pile common to both,
with a knife and traversing apparatus for separating the two
fabrics when woven. But by far the most beautiful and ingenious of
his inventions was the combing-machine, the history of which we now
proceed shortly to describe.

Heilmann had for some years been diligently studying the
contrivance of a machine for combing long-stapled cotton, the
ordinary carding-machine being found ineffective in preparing the
raw material for spinning, especially the finer sorts of yarn,
besides causing considerable waste. To avoid these imperfections,
the cotton-spinners of Alsace offered a prize of 5000 francs for an
improved combing-machine, and Heilmann immediately proceeded to
compete for the reward. He was not stimulated by the desire of
gain, for he was comparatively rich, having acquired a considerable
fortune by his wife. It was a saying of his that "one will never
accomplish great things who is constantly asking himself, how much
gain will this bring me?" What mainly impelled him was the
irrepressible instinct of the inventor, who no sooner has a
mechanical problem set before him than he feels impelled to
undertake its solution. The problem in this case was, however,
much more difficult than he had anticipated. The close study of
the subject occupied him for several years, and the expenses in
which he became involved in connection with it were so great, that
his wife's fortune was shortly swallowed up, and he was reduced to
poverty, without being able to bring his machine to perfection.
From that time he was under the necessity of relying mainly on the
help of his friends to enable him to prosecute the invention.

While still struggling with poverty and difficulties, Heilmann's
wife died, believing her husband ruined; and shortly after he
proceeded to England and settled for a time at Manchester, still
labouring at his machine. He had a model made for him by the
eminent machine-makers, Sharpe, Roberts, and Company; but still he
could not make it work satisfactorily, and he was at length brought
almost to the verge of despair. He returned to France to visit his
family, still pursuing his idea, which had obtained complete
possession of his mind. While sitting by his hearth one evening,
meditating upon the hard fate of inventors and the misfortunes in
which their families so often become involved, he found himself
almost unconsciously watching his daughters coming their long hair
and drawing it out at full length between their fingers. The
thought suddenly struck him that if he could successfully imitate
in a machine the process of combing out the longest hair and
forcing back the short by reversing the action of the comb, it
might serve to extricate him from his difficulty. It may be
remembered that this incident in the life of Heilmann has been made
the subject of a beautiful picture by Mr. Elmore, R.A., which was
exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1862.

Upon this idea he proceeded, introduced the apparently simple but
really most intricate process of machine-combing, and after great
labour he succeeded in perfecting the invention. The singular
beauty of the process can only be appreciated by those who have
witnessed the machine at work, when the similarity of its movements
to that of combing the hair, which suggested the invention, is at
once apparent. The machine has been described as "acting with
almost the delicacy of touch of the human fingers." It combs the
lock of cotton AT BOTH ENDS, places the fibres exactly parallel
with each other, separates the long from the short, and unites the
long fibres in one sliver and the short ones in another. In fine,
the machine not only acts with the delicate accuracy of the human
fingers, but apparently with the delicate intelligence of the human

The chief commercial value of the invention consisted in its
rendering the commoner sorts of cotton available for fine spinning.
The manufacturers were thereby enabled to select the most suitable
fibres for high-priced fabrics, and to produce the finer sorts of
yarn in much larger quantities. It became possible by its means to
make thread so fine that a length of 334 miles might be spun from a
single pound weight of the prepared cotton, and, worked up into the
finer sorts of lace, the original shilling's worth of cotton-wool,
before it passed into the hands of the consumer, might thus be
increased to the value of between 300l. and 400l. sterling.

The beauty and utility of Heilmann's invention were at once
appreciated by the English cotton-spinners. Six Lancashire firms
united and purchased the patent for cotton-spinning for England for
the sum of 30,000l; the wool-spinners paid the same sum for the
privilege of applying the process to wool; and the Messrs.
Marshall, of Leeds, 20,000l. for the privilege of applying it to
flax. Thus wealth suddenly flowed in upon poor Heilmann at last.
But he did not live to enjoy it. Scarcely had his long labours
been crowned by success than he died, and his son, who had shared
in his privations, shortly followed him.

It is at the price of lives such as these that the wonders of
civilisation are achieved.


"Patience is the finest and worthiest part of fortitude, and the
rarest too . . . Patience lies at the root of all pleasures, as
well as of all powers. Hope herself ceases to be happiness when
Impatience companions her."--John Ruskin.

"Il y a vingt et cinq ans passez qu'il ne me fut monstre une coupe
de terre, tournee et esmaillee d'une telle beaute que . . .
deslors, sans avoir esgard que je n'avois nulle connoissance des
terres argileuses, je me mis a chercher les emaux, comme un homme
qui taste en tenebres."--Bernard Palissy.

It so happens that the history of Pottery furnishes some of the
most remarkable instances of patient perseverance to be found in
the whole range of biography. Of these we select three of the most
striking, as exhibited in the lives of Bernard Palissy, the
Frenchman; Johann Friedrich Bottgher, the German; and Josiah
Wedgwood, the Englishman.

Though the art of making common vessels of clay was known to most
of the ancient nations, that of manufacturing enamelled earthenware
was much less common. It was, however, practised by the ancient
Etruscans, specimens of whose ware are still to be found in
antiquarian collections. But it became a lost art, and was only
recovered at a comparatively recent date. The Etruscan ware was
very valuable in ancient times, a vase being worth its weight in
gold in the time of Augustus. The Moors seem to have preserved
amongst them a knowledge of the art, which they were found
practising in the island of Majorca when it was taken by the Pisans
in 1115. Among the spoil carried away were many plates of Moorish
earthenware, which, in token of triumph, were embedded in the walls
of several of the ancient churches of Pisa, where they are to be
seen to this day. About two centuries later the Italians began to
make an imitation enamelled ware, which they named Majolica, after
the Moorish place of manufacture.

The reviver or re-discoverer of the art of enamelling in Italy was
Luca della Robbia, a Florentine sculptor. Vasari describes him as
a man of indefatigable perseverance, working with his chisel all
day and practising drawing during the greater part of the night.
He pursued the latter art with so much assiduity, that when working
late, to prevent his feet from freezing with the cold, he was
accustomed to provide himself with a basket of shavings, in which
he placed them to keep himself warm and enable him to proceed with
his drawings. "Nor," says Vasari, "am I in the least astonished at
this, since no man ever becomes distinguished in any art whatsoever
who does not early begin to acquire the power of supporting heat,
cold, hunger, thirst, and other discomforts; whereas those persons
deceive themselves altogether who suppose that when taking their
ease and surrounded by all the enjoyments of the world they may
still attain to honourable distinction,--for it is not by sleeping,
but by waking, watching, and labouring continually, that
proficiency is attained and reputation acquired."

But Luca, notwithstanding all his application and industry, did not
succeed in earning enough money by sculpture to enable him to live
by the art, and the idea occurred to him that he might nevertheless
be able to pursue his modelling in some material more facile and
less dear than marble. Hence it was that he began to make his
models in clay, and to endeavour by experiment so to coat and bake
the clay as to render those models durable. After many trials he
at length discovered a method of covering the clay with a material,
which, when exposed to the intense heat of a furnace, became
converted into an almost imperishable enamel. He afterwards made
the further discovery of a method of imparting colour to the
enamel, thus greatly adding to its beauty.

The fame of Luca's work extended throughout Europe, and specimens
of his art became widely diffused. Many of them were sent into
France and Spain, where they were greatly prized. At that time
coarse brown jars and pipkins were almost the only articles of
earthenware produced in France; and this continued to be the case,
with comparatively small improvement, until the time of Palissy--a
man who toiled and fought against stupendous difficulties with a
heroism that sheds a glow almost of romance over the events of his
chequered life.

Bernard Palissy is supposed to have been born in the south of
France, in the diocese of Agen, about the year 1510. His father
was probably a worker in glass, to which trade Bernard was brought
up. His parents were poor people--too poor to give him the benefit
of any school education. "I had no other books," said he
afterwards, "than heaven and earth, which are open to all." He
learnt, however, the art of glass-painting, to which he added that
of drawing, and afterwards reading and writing.

When about eighteen years old, the glass trade becoming decayed,
Palissy left his father's house, with his wallet on his back, and
went out into the world to search whether there was any place in it
for him. He first travelled towards Gascony, working at his trade
where he could find employment, and occasionally occupying part of
his time in land-measuring. Then he travelled northwards,
sojourning for various periods at different places in France,
Flanders, and Lower Germany.

Thus Palissy occupied about ten more years of his life, after which
he married, and ceased from his wanderings, settling down to
practise glass-painting and land-measuring at the small town of
Saintes, in the Lower Charente. There children were born to him;
and not only his responsibilities but his expenses increased,
while, do what he could, his earnings remained too small for his
needs. It was therefore necessary for him to bestir himself.
Probably he felt capable of better things than drudging in an
employment so precarious as glass-painting; and hence he was
induced to turn his attention to the kindred art of painting and
enamelling earthenware. Yet on this subject he was wholly
ignorant; for he had never seen earth baked before he began his
operations. He had therefore everything to learn by himself,
without any helper. But he was full of hope, eager to learn, of
unbounded perseverance and inexhaustible patience.

It was the sight of an elegant cup of Italian manufacture--most
probably one of Luca della Robbia's make--which first set Palissy
a-thinking about the new art. A circumstance so apparently
insignificant would have produced no effect upon an ordinary mind,
or even upon Palissy himself at an ordinary time; but occurring as
it did when he was meditating a change of calling, he at once
became inflamed with the desire of imitating it. The sight of this
cup disturbed his whole existence; and the determination to
discover the enamel with which it was glazed thenceforward
possessed him like a passion. Had he been a single man he might
have travelled into Italy in search of the secret; but he was bound
to his wife and his children, and could not leave them; so he
remained by their side groping in the dark in the hope of finding
out the process of making and enamelling earthenware.

At first he could merely guess the materials of which the enamel
was composed; and he proceeded to try all manner of experiments to
ascertain what they really were. He pounded all the substances
which he supposed were likely to produce it. Then he bought common
earthen pots, broke them into pieces, and, spreading his compounds
over them, subjected them to the heat of a furnace which he erected
for the purpose of baking them. His experiments failed; and the
results were broken pots and a waste of fuel, drugs, time, and
labour. Women do not readily sympathise with experiments whose
only tangible effect is to dissipate the means of buying clothes
and food for their children; and Palissy's wife, however dutiful in
other respects, could not be reconciled to the purchase of more
earthen pots, which seemed to her to be bought only to be broken.
Yet she must needs submit; for Palissy had become thoroughly
possessed by the determination to master the secret of the enamel,
and would not leave it alone.

For many successive months and years Palissy pursued his
experiments. The first furnace having proved a failure, he
proceeded to erect another out of doors. There he burnt more wood,
spoiled more drugs and pots, and lost more time, until poverty
stared him and his family in the face. "Thus," said he, "I fooled
away several years, with sorrow and sighs, because I could not at
all arrive at my intention." In the intervals of his experiments
he occasionally worked at his former callings, painting on glass,
drawing portraits, and measuring land; but his earnings from these
sources were very small. At length he was no longer able to carry
on his experiments in his own furnace because of the heavy cost of
fuel; but he bought more potsherds, broke them up as before into
three or four hundred pieces, and, covering them with chemicals,
carried them to a tile-work a league and a half distant from
Saintes, there to be baked in an ordinary furnace. After the
operation he went to see the pieces taken out; and, to his dismay,
the whole of the experiments were failures. But though
disappointed, he was not yet defeated; for he determined on the
very spot to "begin afresh."

His business as a land-measurer called him away for a brief season
from the pursuit of his experiments. In conformity with an edict
of the State, it became necessary to survey the salt-marshes in the
neighbourhood of Saintes for the purpose of levying the land-tax.
Palissy was employed to make this survey, and prepare the requisite
map. The work occupied him some time, and he was doubtless well
paid for it; but no sooner was it completed than he proceeded, with
redoubled zeal, to follow up his old investigations "in the track
of the enamels." He began by breaking three dozen new earthen
pots, the pieces of which he covered with different materials which
he had compounded, and then took them to a neighbouring glass-
furnace to be baked. The results gave him a glimmer of hope. The
greater heat of the glass-furnace had melted some of the compounds;
but though Palissy searched diligently for the white enamel he
could find none.

For two more years he went on experimenting without any
satisfactory result, until the proceeds of his survey of the salt-
marshes having become nearly spent, he was reduced to poverty
again. But he resolved to make a last great effort; and he began
by breaking more pots than ever. More than three hundred pieces of
pottery covered with his compounds were sent to the glass-furnace;
and thither he himself went to watch the results of the baking.
Four hours passed, during which he watched; and then the furnace
was opened. The material on ONE only of the three hundred pieces
of potsherd had melted, and it was taken out to cool. As it
hardened, it grew white-white and polished! The piece of potsherd
was covered with white enamel, described by Palissy as "singularly
beautiful!" And beautiful it must no doubt have been in his eyes
after all his weary waiting. He ran home with it to his wife,
feeling himself, as he expressed it, quite a new creature. But the
prize was not yet won--far from it. The partial success of this
intended last effort merely had the effect of luring him on to a
succession of further experiments and failures.

In order that he might complete the invention, which he now
believed to be at hand, he resolved to build for himself a glass-
furnace near his dwelling, where he might carry on his operations
in secret. He proceeded to build the furnace with his own hands,
carrying the bricks from the brick-field upon his back. He was
bricklayer, labourer, and all. From seven to eight more months
passed. At last the furnace was built and ready for use. Palissy
had in the mean time fashioned a number of vessels of clay in
readiness for the laying on of the enamel. After being subjected
to a preliminary process of baking, they were covered with the
enamel compound, and again placed in the furnace for the grand
crucial experiment. Although his means were nearly exhausted,
Palissy had been for some time accumulating a great store of fuel
for the final effort; and he thought it was enough. At last the
fire was lit, and the operation proceeded. All day he sat by the
furnace, feeding it with fuel. He sat there watching and feeding
all through the long night. But the enamel did not melt. The sun
rose upon his labours. His wife brought him a portion of the
scanty morning meal,--for he would not stir from the furnace, into
which he continued from time to time to heave more fuel. The
second day passed, and still the enamel did not melt. The sun set,
and another night passed. The pale, haggard, unshorn, baffled yet
not beaten Palissy sat by his furnace eagerly looking for the
melting of the enamel. A third day and night passed--a fourth, a
fifth, and even a sixth,--yes, for six long days and nights did the
unconquerable Palissy watch and toil, fighting against hope; and
still the enamel would not melt.

It then occurred to him that there might be some defect in the
materials for the enamel--perhaps something wanting in the flux; so
he set to work to pound and compound fresh materials for a new
experiment. Thus two or three more weeks passed. But how to buy
more pots?--for those which he had made with his own hands for the
purposes of the first experiment were by long baking irretrievably
spoilt for the purposes of a second. His money was now all spent;
but he could borrow. His character was still good, though his wife
and the neighbours thought him foolishly wasting his means in
futile experiments. Nevertheless he succeeded. He borrowed
sufficient from a friend to enable him to buy more fuel and more
pots, and he was again ready for a further experiment. The pots
were covered with the new compound, placed in the furnace, and the
fire was again lit.

It was the last and most desperate experiment of the whole. The
fire blazed up; the heat became intense; but still the enamel did
not melt. The fuel began to run short! How to keep up the fire?
There were the garden palings: these would burn. They must be
sacrificed rather than that the great experiment should fail. The
garden palings were pulled up and cast into the furnace. They were
burnt in vain! The enamel had not yet melted. Ten minutes more
heat might do it. Fuel must be had at whatever cost. There
remained the household furniture and shelving. A crashing noise
was heard in the house; and amidst the screams of his wife and
children, who now feared Palissy's reason was giving way, the
tables were seized, broken up, and heaved into the furnace. The
enamel had not melted yet! There remained the shelving. Another
noise of the wrenching of timber was heard within the house; and
the shelves were torn down and hurled after the furniture into the
fire. Wife and children then rushed from the house, and went
frantically through the town, calling out that poor Palissy had
gone mad, and was breaking up his very furniture for firewood! {10}

For an entire month his shirt had not been off his back, and he was
utterly worn out--wasted with toil, anxiety, watching, and want of
food. He was in debt, and seemed on the verge of ruin. But he had
at length mastered the secret; for the last great burst of heat had
melted the enamel. The common brown household jars, when taken out
of the furnace after it had become cool, were found covered with a
white glaze! For this he could endure reproach, contumely, and
scorn, and wait patiently for the opportunity of putting his
discovery into practice as better days came round.

Palissy next hired a potter to make some earthen vessels after
designs which he furnished; while he himself proceeded to model
some medallions in clay for the purpose of enamelling them. But
how to maintain himself and his family until the wares were made
and ready for sale? Fortunately there remained one man in Saintes
who still believed in the integrity, if not in the judgment, of
Palissy--an inn-keeper, who agreed to feed and lodge him for six
months, while he went on with his manufacture. As for the working
potter whom he had hired, Palissy soon found that he could not pay
him the stipulated wages. Having already stripped his dwelling, he
could but strip himself; and he accordingly parted with some of his
clothes to the potter, in part payment of the wages which he owed

Palissy next erected an improved furnace, but he was so unfortunate
as to build part of the inside with flints. When it was heated,
these flints cracked and burst, and the spiculae were scattered
over the pieces of pottery, sticking to them. Though the enamel
came out right, the work was irretrievably spoilt, and thus six
more months' labour was lost. Persons were found willing to buy
the articles at a low price, notwithstanding the injury they had
sustained; but Palissy would not sell them, considering that to
have done so would be to "decry and abate his honour;" and so he
broke in pieces the entire batch. "Nevertheless," says he, "hope
continued to inspire me, and I held on manfully; sometimes, when
visitors called, I entertained them with pleasantry, while I was
really sad at heart. . . . Worst of all the sufferings I had to
endure, were the mockeries and persecutions of those of my own
household, who were so unreasonable as to expect me to execute work
without the means of doing so. For years my furnaces were without
any covering or protection, and while attending them I have been
for nights at the mercy of the wind and the rain, without help or
consolation, save it might be the wailing of cats on the one side
and the howling of dogs on the other. Sometimes the tempest would
beat so furiously against the furnaces that I was compelled to
leave them and seek shelter within doors. Drenched by rain, and in
no better plight than if I had been dragged through mire, I have
gone to lie down at midnight or at daybreak, stumbling into the
house without a light, and reeling from one side to another as if I
had been drunken, but really weary with watching and filled with
sorrow at the loss of my labour after such long toiling. But alas!
my home proved no refuge; for, drenched and besmeared as I was, I
found in my chamber a second persecution worse than the first,
which makes me even now marvel that I was not utterly consumed by
my many sorrows."

At this stage of his affairs, Palissy became melancholy and almost
hopeless, and seems to have all but broken down. He wandered
gloomily about the fields near Saintes, his clothes hanging in
tatters, and himself worn to a skeleton. In a curious passage in
his writings he describes how that the calves of his legs had
disappeared and were no longer able with the help of garters to
hold up his stockings, which fell about his heels when he walked.
{11} The family continued to reproach him for his recklessness,
and his neighbours cried shame upon him for his obstinate folly.
So he returned for a time to his former calling; and after about a
year's diligent labour, during which he earned bread for his
household and somewhat recovered his character among his
neighbours, he again resumed his darling enterprise. But though he
had already spent about ten years in the search for the enamel, it
cost him nearly eight more years of experimental plodding before he
perfected his invention. He gradually learnt dexterity and
certainty of result by experience, gathering practical knowledge
out of many failures. Every mishap was a fresh lesson to him,
teaching him something new about the nature of enamels, the
qualities of argillaceous earths, the tempering of clays, and the
construction and management of furnaces.

At last, after about sixteen years' labour, Palissy took heart and
called himself Potter. These sixteen years had been his term of
apprenticeship to the art; during which he had wholly to teach
himself, beginning at the very beginning. He was now able to sell
his wares and thereby maintain his family in comfort. But he never
rested satisfied with what he had accomplished. He proceeded from
one step of improvement to another; always aiming at the greatest
perfection possible. He studied natural objects for patterns, and
with such success that the great Buffon spoke of him as "so great a
naturalist as Nature only can produce." His ornamental pieces are
now regarded as rare gems in the cabinets of virtuosi, and sell at
almost fabulous prices. {12} The ornaments on them are for the
most part accurate models from life, of wild animals, lizards, and
plants, found in the fields about Saintes, and tastefully combined
as ornaments into the texture of a plate or vase. When Palissy had
reached the height of his art he styled himself "Ouvrier de Terre
et Inventeur des Rustics Figulines."

We have not, however, come to an end of the sufferings of Palissy,
respecting which a few words remain to be said. Being a
Protestant, at a time when religious persecution waxed hot in the
south of France, and expressing his views without fear, he was
regarded as a dangerous heretic. His enemies having informed
against him, his house at Saintes was entered by the officers of
"justice," and his workshop was thrown open to the rabble, who
entered and smashed his pottery, while he himself was hurried off
by night and cast into a dungeon at Bordeaux, to wait his turn at
the stake or the scaffold. He was condemned to be burnt; but a
powerful noble, the Constable de Montmorency, interposed to save
his life--not because he had any special regard for Palissy or his
religion, but because no other artist could be found capable of
executing the enamelled pavement for his magnificent chateau then
in course of erection at Ecouen, about four leagues from Paris. By
his influence an edict was issued appointing Palissy Inventor of
Rustic Figulines to the King and to the Constable, which had the
effect of immediately removing him from the jurisdiction of
Bourdeaux. He was accordingly liberated, and returned to his home
at Saintes only to find it devastated and broken up. His workshop
was open to the sky, and his works lay in ruins. Shaking the dust
of Saintes from his feet he left the place never to return to it,
and removed to Paris to carry on the works ordered of him by the
Constable and the Queen Mother, being lodged in the Tuileries {13}
while so occupied.

Besides carrying on the manufacture of pottery, with the aid of his
two sons, Palissy, during the latter part of his life, wrote and
published several books on the potter's art, with a view to the
instruction of his countrymen, and in order that they might avoid
the many mistakes which he himself had made. He also wrote on
agriculture, on fortification, and natural history, on which latter
subject he even delivered lectures to a limited number of persons.
He waged war against astrology, alchemy, witchcraft, and like
impostures. This stirred up against him many enemies, who pointed
the finger at him as a heretic, and he was again arrested for his
religion and imprisoned in the Bastille. He was now an old man of
seventy-eight, trembling on the verge of the grave, but his spirit
was as brave as ever. He was threatened with death unless he
recanted; but he was as obstinate in holding to his religion as he
had been in hunting out the secret of the enamel. The king, Henry
III., even went to see him in prison to induce him to abjure his
faith. "My good man," said the King, "you have now served my
mother and myself for forty-five years. We have put up with your
adhering to your religion amidst fires and massacres: now I am so
pressed by the Guise party as well as by my own people, that I am
constrained to leave you in the hands of your enemies, and to-
morrow you will be burnt unless you become converted." "Sire,"
answered the unconquerable old man, "I am ready to give my life for
the glory of God. You have said many times that you have pity on
me; and now I have pity on you, who have pronounced the words _I_
AM CONSTRAINED! It is not spoken like a king, sire; it is what
you, and those who constrain you, the Guisards and all your people,
can never effect upon me, for I know how to die." {14} Palissy did
indeed die shortly after, a martyr, though not at the stake. He
died in the Bastille, after enduring about a year's imprisonment,--
there peacefully terminating a life distinguished for heroic
labour, extraordinary endurance, inflexible rectitude, and the
exhibition of many rare and noble virtues. {15}

The life of John Frederick Bottgher, the inventor of hard
porcelain, presents a remarkable contrast to that of Palissy;
though it also contains many points of singular and almost romantic
interest. Bottgher was born at Schleiz, in the Voightland, in
1685, and at twelve years of age was placed apprentice with an
apothecary at Berlin. He seems to have been early fascinated by
chemistry, and occupied most of his leisure in making experiments.
These for the most part tended in one direction--the art of
converting common on metals into gold. At the end of several
years, Bottgher pretended to have discovered the universal solvent
of the alchemists, and professed that he had made gold by its
means. He exhibited its powers before his master, the apothecary
Zorn, and by some trick or other succeeded in making him and
several other witnesses believe that he had actually converted
copper into gold.

The news spread abroad that the apothecary's apprentice had
discovered the grand secret, and crowds collected about the shop to
get a sight of the wonderful young "gold-cook." The king himself
expressed a wish to see and converse with him, and when Frederick
I. was presented with a piece of the gold pretended to have been
converted from copper, he was so dazzled with the prospect of
securing an infinite quantity of it--Prussia being then in great
straits for money--that he determined to secure Bottgher and employ
him to make gold for him within the strong fortress of Spandau.
But the young apothecary, suspecting the king's intention, and
probably fearing detection, at once resolved on flight, and he
succeeded in getting across the frontier into Saxony.

A reward of a thousand thalers was offered for Bottgher's
apprehension, but in vain. He arrived at Wittenberg, and appealed
for protection to the Elector of Saxony, Frederick Augustus I.
(King of Poland), surnamed "the Strong." Frederick was himself
very much in want of money at the time, and he was overjoyed at the
prospect of obtaining gold in any quantity by the aid of the young
alchemist. Bottgher was accordingly conveyed in secret to Dresden,
accompanied by a royal escort. He had scarcely left Wittenberg
when a battalion of Prussian grenadiers appeared before the gates
demanding the gold-maker's extradition. But it was too late:
Bottgher had already arrived in Dresden, where he was lodged in the
Golden House, and treated with every consideration, though strictly
watched and kept under guard.

The Elector, however, must needs leave him there for a time, having
to depart forthwith to Poland, then almost in a state of anarchy.
But, impatient for gold, he wrote Bottgher from Warsaw, urging him
to communicate the secret, so that he himself might practise the
art of commutation. The young "gold-cook," thus pressed, forwarded
to Frederick a small phial containing "a reddish fluid," which, it
was asserted, changed all metals, when in a molten state, into
gold. This important phial was taken in charge by the Prince Furst
von Furstenburg, who, accompanied by a regiment of Guards, hurried
with it to Warsaw. Arrived there, it was determined to make
immediate trial of the process. The King and the Prince locked
themselves up in a secret chamber of the palace, girt themselves
about with leather aprons, and like true "gold-cooks" set to work
melting copper in a crucible and afterwards applying to it the red
fluid of Bottgher. But the result was unsatisfactory; for
notwithstanding all that they could do, the copper obstinately
remained copper. On referring to the alchemist's instructions,
however, the King found that, to succeed with the process, it was
necessary that the fluid should be used "in great purity of heart;"
and as his Majesty was conscious of having spent the evening in
very bad company he attributed the failure of the experiment to
that cause. A second trial was followed by no better results, and
then the King became furious; for he had confessed and received
absolution before beginning the second experiment.

Frederick Augustus now resolved on forcing Bottgher to disclose the
golden secret, as the only means of relief from his urgent
pecuniary difficulties. The alchemist, hearing of the royal
intention, again determined to fly. He succeeded in escaping his
guard, and, after three days' travel, arrived at Ens in Austria,
where he thought himself safe. The agents of the Elector were,
however, at his heels; they had tracked him to the "Golden Stag,"
which they surrounded, and seizing him in his bed, notwithstanding
his resistance and appeals to the Austrian authorities for help,
they carried him by force to Dresden. From this time he was more
strictly watched than ever, and he was shortly after transferred to
the strong fortress of Koningstein. It was communicated to him
that the royal exchequer was completely empty, and that ten
regiments of Poles in arrears of pay were waiting for his gold.
The King himself visited him, and told him in a severe tone that if
he did not at once proceed to make gold, he would be hung! ("Thu
mir zurecht, Bottgher, sonst lass ich dich hangen").

Years passed, and still Bottgher made no gold; but he was not hung.
It was reserved for him to make a far more important discovery than
the conversion of copper into gold, namely, the conversion of clay
into porcelain. Some rare specimens of this ware had been brought
by the Portuguese from China, which were sold for more than their
weight in gold. Bottgher was first induced to turn his attention
to the subject by Walter von Tschirnhaus, a maker of optical
instruments, also an alchemist. Tschirnhaus was a man of education
and distinction, and was held in much esteem by Prince Furstenburg
as well as by the Elector. He very sensibly said to Bottgher,
still in fear of the gallows--"If you can't make gold, try and do
something else; make porcelain."

The alchemist acted on the hint, and began his experiments, working
night and day. He prosecuted his investigations for a long time
with great assiduity, but without success. At length some red
clay, brought to him for the purpose of making his crucibles, set
him on the right track. He found that this clay, when submitted to
a high temperature, became vitrified and retained its shape; and
that its texture resembled that of porcelain, excepting in colour
and opacity. He had in fact accidentally discovered red porcelain,
and he proceeded to manufacture it and sell it as porcelain.

Bottgher was, however, well aware that the white colour was an
essential property of true porcelain; and he therefore prosecuted
his experiments in the hope of discovering the secret. Several
years thus passed, but without success; until again accident stood
his friend, and helped him to a knowledge of the art of making
white porcelain. One day, in the year 1707, he found his perruque
unusually heavy, and asked of his valet the reason. The answer
was, that it was owing to the powder with which the wig was
dressed, which consisted of a kind of earth then much used for hair
powder. Bottgher's quick imagination immediately seized upon the
idea. This white earthy powder might possibly be the very earth of
which he was in search--at all events the opportunity must not be
let slip of ascertaining what it really was. He was rewarded for
his painstaking care and watchfulness; for he found, on experiment,
that the principal ingredient of the hair-powder consisted of
kaolin, the want of which had so long formed an insuperable
difficulty in the way of his inquiries.

The discovery, in Bottgher's intelligent hands, led to great
results, and proved of far greater importance than the discovery of
the philosopher's stone would have been. In October, 1707, he
presented his first piece of porcelain to the Elector, who was
greatly pleased with it; and it was resolved that Bottgher should
be furnished with the means necessary for perfecting his invention.
Having obtained a skilled workman from Delft, he began to TURN
porcelain with great success. He now entirely abandoned alchemy
for pottery, and inscribed over the door of his workshop this

"Es machte Gott, der grosse Schopfer,
Aus einem Goldmacher einen Topfer." {16}

Bottgher, however, was still under strict surveillance, for fear
lest he should communicate his secret to others or escape the
Elector's control. The new workshops and furnaces which were
erected for him, were guarded by troops night and day, and six
superior officers were made responsible for the personal security
of the potter.

Bottgher's further experiments with his new furnaces proving very
successful, and the porcelain which he manufactured being found to
fetch large prices, it was next determined to establish a Royal
Manufactory of porcelain. The manufacture of delft ware was known
to have greatly enriched Holland. Why should not the manufacture
of porcelain equally enrich the Elector? Accordingly, a decree
went forth, dated the 23rd of January, 1710, for the establishment
of "a large manufactory of porcelain" at the Albrechtsburg in
Meissen. In this decree, which was translated into Latin, French,
and Dutch, and distributed by the Ambassadors of the Elector at all
the European Courts, Frederick Augustus set forth that to promote
the welfare of Saxony, which had suffered much through the Swedish
invasion, he had "directed his attention to the subterranean
treasures (unterirdischen Schatze)" of the country, and having
employed some able persons in the investigation, they had succeeded
in manufacturing "a sort of red vessels (eine Art rother Gefasse)
far superior to the Indian terra sigillata;" {17} as also "coloured
ware and plates (buntes Geschirr und Tafeln) which may be cut,
ground, and polished, and are quite equal to Indian vessels," and
finally that "specimens of white porcelain (Proben von weissem
Porzellan)" had already been obtained, and it was hoped that this
quality, too, would soon be manufactured in considerable
quantities. The royal decree concluded by inviting "foreign
artists and handicraftmen" to come to Saxony and engage as
assistants in the new factory, at high wages, and under the
patronage of the King. This royal edict probably gives the best
account of the actual state of Bottgher's invention at the time.

It has been stated in German publications that Bottgher, for the
great services rendered by him to the Elector and to Saxony, was
made Manager of the Royal Porcelain Works, and further promoted to
the dignity of Baron. Doubtless he deserved these honours; but his
treatment was of an altogether different character, for it was
shabby, cruel, and inhuman. Two royal officials, named Matthieu
and Nehmitz, were put over his head as directors of the factory,
while he himself only held the position of foreman of potters, and
at the same time was detained the King's prisoner. During the
erection of the factory at Meissen, while his assistance was still
indispensable, he was conducted by soldiers to and from Dresden;
and even after the works were finished, he was locked up nightly in
his room. All this preyed upon his mind, and in repeated letters
to the King he sought to obtain mitigation of his fate. Some of
these letters are very touching. "I will devote my whole soul to
the art of making porcelain," he writes on one occasion, "I will do
more than any inventor ever did before; only give me liberty,

To these appeals, the King turned a deaf ear. He was ready to
spend money and grant favours; but liberty he would not give. He
regarded Bottgher as his slave. In this position, the persecuted
man kept on working for some time, till, at the end of a year or
two, he grew negligent. Disgusted with the world and with himself,
he took to drinking. Such is the force of example, that it no
sooner became known that Bottgher had betaken himself to this vice,
than the greater number of the workmen at the Meissen factory
became drunkards too. Quarrels and fightings without end were the
consequence, so that the troops were frequently called upon to
interfere and keep peace among the "Porzellanern," as they were
nicknamed. After a while, the whole of them, more than three
hundred, were shut up in the Albrechtsburg, and treated as
prisoners of state.

Bottgher at last fell seriously ill, and in May, 1713, his
dissolution was hourly expected. The King, alarmed at losing so
valuable a slave, now gave him permission to take carriage exercise
under a guard; and, having somewhat recovered, he was allowed
occasionally to go to Dresden. In a letter written by the King in
April, 1714, Bottgher was promised his full liberty; but the offer
came too late. Broken in body and mind, alternately working and
drinking, though with occasional gleams of nobler intention, and
suffering under constant ill-health, the result of his enforced
confinement, Bottgher lingered on for a few years more, until death
freed him from his sufferings on the 13th March, 1719, in the
thirty-fifth year of his age. He was buried AT NIGHT--as if he had
been a dog--in the Johannis Cemetery of Meissen. Such was the
treatment and such the unhappy end, of one of Saxony's greatest

The porcelain manufacture immediately opened up an important source
of public revenue, and it became so productive to the Elector of
Saxony, that his example was shortly after followed by most
European monarchs. Although soft porcelain had been made at St.
Cloud fourteen years before Bottgher's discovery, the superiority
of the hard porcelain soon became generally recognised. Its
manufacture was begun at Sevres in 1770, and it has since almost
entirely superseded the softer material. This is now one of the
most thriving branches of French industry, of which the high
quality of the articles produced is certainly indisputable.

The career of Josiah Wedgwood, the English potter, was less
chequered and more prosperous than that of either Palissy or
Bottgher, and his lot was cast in happier times. Down to the
middle of last century England was behind most other nations of the
first order in Europe in respect of skilled industry. Although
there were many potters in Staffordshire--and Wedgwood himself
belonged to a numerous clan of potters of the same name--their
productions were of the rudest kind, for the most part only plain
brown ware, with the patterns scratched in while the clay was wet.
The principal supply of the better articles of earthenware came
from Delft in Holland, and of drinking stone pots from Cologne.
Two foreign potters, the brothers Elers from Nuremberg, settled for
a time in Staffordshire, and introduced an improved manufacture,
but they shortly after removed to Chelsea, where they confined
themselves to the manufacture of ornamental pieces. No porcelain
capable of resisting a scratch with a hard point had yet been made
in England; and for a long time the "white ware" made in
Staffordshire was not white, but of a dirty cream colour. Such, in
a few words, was the condition of the pottery manufacture when
Josiah Wedgwood was born at Burslem in 1730. By the time that he
died, sixty-four years later, it had become completely changed. By
his energy, skill, and genius, he established the trade upon a new
and solid foundation; and, in the words of his epitaph, "converted
a rude and inconsiderable manufacture into an elegant art and an
important branch of national commerce."

Josiah Wedgwood was one of those indefatigable men who from time to
time spring from the ranks of the common people, and by their
energetic character not only practically educate the working
population in habits of industry, but by the example of diligence
and perseverance which they set before them, largely influence the
public activity in all directions, and contribute in a great degree
to form the national character. He was, like Arkwright, the
youngest of a family of thirteen children. His grandfather and
granduncle were both potters, as was also his father who died when
he was a mere boy, leaving him a patrimony of twenty pounds. He
had learned to read and write at the village school; but on the
death of his father he was taken from it and set to work as a
"thrower" in a small pottery carried on by his elder brother.
There he began life, his working life, to use his own words, "at
the lowest round of the ladder," when only eleven years old. He
was shortly after seized by an attack of virulent smallpox, from
the effects of which he suffered during the rest of his life, for
it was followed by a disease in the right knee, which recurred at
frequent intervals, and was only got rid of by the amputation of
the limb many years later. Mr. Gladstone, in his eloquent Eloge on
Wedgwood recently delivered at Burslem, well observed that the
disease from which he suffered was not improbably the occasion of
his subsequent excellence. "It prevented him from growing up to be
the active, vigorous English workman, possessed of all his limbs,
and knowing right well the use of them; but it put him upon
considering whether, as he could not be that, he might not be
something else, and something greater. It sent his mind inwards;
it drove him to meditate upon the laws and secrets of his art. The
result was, that he arrived at a perception and a grasp of them
which might, perhaps, have been envied, certainly have been owned,
by an Athenian potter." {18}

When he had completed his apprenticeship with his brother, Josiah
joined partnership with another workman, and carried on a small
business in making knife-hafts, boxes, and sundry articles for
domestic use. Another partnership followed, when he proceeded to
make melon table plates, green pickle leaves, candlesticks,
snuffboxes, and such like articles; but he made comparatively
little progress until he began business on his own account at
Burslem in the year 1759. There he diligently pursued his calling,
introducing new articles to the trade, and gradually extending his
business. What he chiefly aimed at was to manufacture cream-
coloured ware of a better quality than was then produced in
Staffordshire as regarded shape, colour, glaze, and durability. To
understand the subject thoroughly, he devoted his leisure to the
study of chemistry; and he made numerous experiments on fluxes,
glazes, and various sorts of clay. Being a close inquirer and
accurate observer, he noticed that a certain earth containing
silica, which was black before calcination, became white after
exposure to the heat of a furnace. This fact, observed and
pondered on, led to the idea of mixing silica with the red powder
of the potteries, and to the discovery that the mixture becomes
white when calcined. He had but to cover this material with a
vitrification of transparent glaze, to obtain one of the most
important products of fictile art--that which, under the name of
English earthenware, was to attain the greatest commercial value
and become of the most extensive utility.

Wedgwood was for some time much troubled by his furnaces, though
nothing like to the same extent that Palissy was; and he overcame
his difficulties in the same way--by repeated experiments and
unfaltering perseverance. His first attempts at making porcelain
for table use was a succession of disastrous failures,--the labours
of months being often destroyed in a day. It was only after a long
series of trials, in the course of which he lost time, money, and
labour, that he arrived at the proper sort of glaze to be used; but
he would not be denied, and at last he conquered success through
patience. The improvement of pottery became his passion, and was
never lost sight of for a moment. Even when he had mastered his
difficulties, and become a prosperous man--manufacturing white
stone ware and cream-coloured ware in large quantities for home and
foreign use--he went forward perfecting his manufactures, until,
his example extending in all directions, the action of the entire
district was stimulated, and a great branch of British industry was
eventually established on firm foundations. He aimed throughout at
the highest excellence, declaring his determination "to give over
manufacturing any article, whatsoever it might be, rather than to
degrade it."

Wedgwood was cordially helped by many persons of rank and
influence; for, working in the truest spirit, he readily commanded
the help and encouragement of other true workers. He made for
Queen Charlotte the first royal table-service of English
manufacture, of the kind afterwards called "Queen's-ware," and was
appointed Royal Potter; a title which he prized more than if he had
been made a baron. Valuable sets of porcelain were entrusted to
him for imitation, in which he succeeded to admiration. Sir
William Hamilton lent him specimens of ancient art from
Herculaneum, of which he produced accurate and beautiful copies.
The Duchess of Portland outbid him for the Barberini Vase when that
article was offered for sale. He bid as high as seventeen hundred
guineas for it: her grace secured it for eighteen hundred; but
when she learnt Wedgwood's object she at once generously lent him
the vase to copy. He produced fifty copies at a cost of about
2500l., and his expenses were not covered by their sale; but he
gained his object, which was to show that whatever had been done,
that English skill and energy could and would accomplish.

Wedgwood called to his aid the crucible of the chemist, the
knowledge of the antiquary, and the skill of the artist. He found
out Flaxman when a youth, and while he liberally nurtured his
genius drew from him a large number of beautiful designs for his
pottery and porcelain; converting them by his manufacture into
objects of taste and excellence, and thus making them instrumental
in the diffusion of classical art amongst the people. By careful
experiment and study he was even enabled to rediscover the art of
painting on porcelain or earthenware vases and similar articles--an
art practised by the ancient Etruscans, but which had been lost
since the time of Pliny. He distinguished himself by his own
contributions to science, and his name is still identified with the
Pyrometer which he invented. He was an indefatigable supporter of
all measures of public utility; and the construction of the Trent
and Mersey Canal, which completed the navigable communication
between the eastern and western sides of the island, was mainly due
to his public-spirited exertions, allied to the engineering skill
of Brindley. The road accommodation of the district being of an
execrable character, he planned and executed a turnpike-road
through the Potteries, ten miles in length. The reputation he
achieved was such that his works at Burslem, and subsequently those
at Etruria, which he founded and built, became a point of
attraction to distinguished visitors from all parts of Europe.

The result of Wedgwood's labours was, that the manufacture of
pottery, which he found in the very lowest condition, became one of
the staples of England; and instead of importing what we needed for
home use from abroad, we became large exporters to other countries,
supplying them with earthenware even in the face of enormous
prohibitory duties on articles of British produce. Wedgwood gave
evidence as to his manufactures before Parliament in 1785, only
some thirty years after he had begun his operations; from which it
appeared, that instead of providing only casual employment to a
small number of inefficient and badly remunerated workmen, about
20,000 persons then derived their bread directly from the
manufacture of earthenware, without taking into account the
increased numbers to which it gave employment in coal-mines, and in
the carrying trade by land and sea, and the stimulus which it gave
to employment in many ways in various parts of the country. Yet,
important as had been the advances made in his time, Mr. Wedgwood
was of opinion that the manufacture was but in its infancy, and
that the improvements which he had effected were of but small
amount compared with those to which the art was capable of
attaining, through the continued industry and growing intelligence
of the manufacturers, and the natural facilities and political
advantages enjoyed by Great Britain; an opinion which has been
fully borne out by the progress which has since been effected in
this important branch of industry. In 1852 not fewer than
84,000,000 pieces of pottery were exported from England to other
countries, besides what were made for home use. But it is not
merely the quantity and value of the produce that is entitled to
consideration, but the improvement of the condition of the
population by whom this great branch of industry is conducted.
When Wedgwood began his labours, the Staffordshire district was
only in a half-civilized state. The people were poor,
uncultivated, and few in number. When Wedgwood's manufacture was
firmly established, there was found ample employment at good wages
for three times the number of population; while their moral
advancement had kept pace with their material improvement.

Men such as these are fairly entitled to take rank as the
Industrial Heroes of the civilized world. Their patient self-
reliance amidst trials and difficulties, their courage and
perseverance in the pursuit of worthy objects, are not less heroic
of their kind than the bravery and devotion of the soldier and the
sailor, whose duty and pride it is heroically to defend what these
valiant leaders of industry have so heroically achieved.


"Rich are the diligent, who can command
Time, nature's stock! and could his hour-glass fall,
Would, as for seed of stars, stoop for the sand,
And, by incessant labour, gather all."--D'Avenant.
"Allez en avant, et la foi vous viendra!"--D'Alembert.

The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means,
and the exercise of ordinary qualities. The common life of every
day, with its cares, necessities, and duties, affords ample
opportunity for acquiring experience of the best kind; and its most
beaten paths provide the true worker with abundant scope for effort
and room for self-improvement. The road of human welfare lies
along the old highway of steadfast well-doing; and they who are the
most persistent, and work in the truest spirit, will usually be the
most successful.

Fortune has often been blamed for her blindness; but fortune is not
so blind as men are. Those who look into practical life will find
that fortune is usually on the side of the industrious, as the
winds and waves are on the side of the best navigators. In the
pursuit of even the highest branches of human inquiry, the commoner
qualities are found the most useful--such as common sense,
attention, application, and perseverance. Genius may not be
necessary, though even genius of the highest sort does not disdain
the use of these ordinary qualities. The very greatest men have
been among the least believers in the power of genius, and as
worldly wise and persevering as successful men of the commoner
sort. Some have even defined genius to be only common sense
intensified. A distinguished teacher and president of a college
spoke of it as the power of making efforts. John Foster held it to
be the power of lighting one's own fire. Buffon said of genius "it
is patience."

Newton's was unquestionably a mind of the very highest order, and
yet, when asked by what means he had worked out his extraordinary
discoveries, he modestly answered, "By always thinking unto them."
At another time he thus expressed his method of study: "I keep the
subject continually before me, and wait till the first dawnings
open slowly by little and little into a full and clear light." It
was in Newton's case, as in every other, only by diligent
application and perseverance that his great reputation was
achieved. Even his recreation consisted in change of study, laying
down one subject to take up another. To Dr. Bentley he said: "If
I have done the public any service, it is due to nothing but
industry and patient thought." So Kepler, another great
philosopher, speaking of his studies and his progress, said: "As
in Virgil, 'Fama mobilitate viget, vires acquirit eundo,' so it was
with me, that the diligent thought on these things was the occasion
of still further thinking; until at last I brooded with the whole
energy of my mind upon the subject."

The extraordinary results effected by dint of sheer industry and
perseverance, have led many distinguished men to doubt whether the
gift of genius be so exceptional an endowment as it is usually
supposed to be. Thus Voltaire held that it is only a very slight
line of separation that divides the man of genius from the man of
ordinary mould. Beccaria was even of opinion that all men might be
poets and orators, and Reynolds that they might be painters and
sculptors. If this were really so, that stolid Englishman might
not have been so very far wrong after all, who, on Canova's death,
inquired of his brother whether it was "his intention to carry on
the business!" Locke, Helvetius, and Diderot believed that all men
have an equal aptitude for genius, and that what some are able to
effect, under the laws which regulate the operations of the
intellect, must also be within the reach of others who, under like
circumstances, apply themselves to like pursuits. But while
admitting to the fullest extent the wonderful achievements of
labour, and recognising the fact that men of the most distinguished
genius have invariably been found the most indefatigable workers,
it must nevertheless be sufficiently obvious that, without the
original endowment of heart and brain, no amount of labour, however
well applied, could have produced a Shakespeare, a Newton, a
Beethoven, or a Michael Angelo.

Dalton, the chemist, repudiated the notion of his being "a genius,"
attributing everything which he had accomplished to simple industry
and accumulation. John Hunter said of himself, "My mind is like a
beehive; but full as it is of buzz and apparent confusion, it is
yet full of order and regularity, and food collected with incessant
industry from the choicest stores of nature." We have, indeed, but
to glance at the biographies of great men to find that the most
distinguished inventors, artists, thinkers, and workers of all
kinds, owe their success, in a great measure, to their
indefatigable industry and application. They were men who turned
all things to gold--even time itself. Disraeli the elder held that
the secret of success consisted in being master of your subject,
such mastery being attainable only through continuous application
and study. Hence it happens that the men who have most moved the
world, have not been so much men of genius, strictly so called, as
men of intense mediocre abilities, and untiring perseverance; not
so often the gifted, of naturally bright and shining qualities, as
those who have applied themselves diligently to their work, in
whatsoever line that might lie. "Alas!" said a widow, speaking of
her brilliant but careless son, "he has not the gift of
continuance." Wanting in perseverance, such volatile natures are
outstripped in the race of life by the diligent and even the dull.
"Che va piano, va longano, e va lontano," says the Italian proverb:
Who goes slowly, goes long, and goes far.

Hence, a great point to be aimed at is to get the working quality
well trained. When that is done, the race will be found
comparatively easy. We must repeat and again repeat; facility will
come with labour. Not even the simplest art can be accomplished
without it; and what difficulties it is found capable of achieving!
It was by early discipline and repetition that the late Sir Robert
Peel cultivated those remarkable, though still mediocre powers,
which rendered him so illustrious an ornament of the British
Senate. When a boy at Drayton Manor, his father was accustomed to
set him up at table to practise speaking extempore; and he early
accustomed him to repeat as much of the Sunday's sermon as he could
remember. Little progress was made at first, but by steady
perseverance the habit of attention became powerful, and the sermon
was at length repeated almost verbatim. When afterwards replying
in succession to the arguments of his parliamentary opponents--an
art in which he was perhaps unrivalled--it was little surmised that
the extraordinary power of accurate remembrance which he displayed
on such occasions had been originally trained under the discipline
of his father in the parish church of Drayton.

It is indeed marvellous what continuous application will effect in
the commonest of things. It may seem a simple affair to play upon
a violin; yet what a long and laborious practice it requires!
Giardini said to a youth who asked him how long it would take to
learn it, "Twelve hours a day for twenty years together."
Industry, it is said, fait l'ours danser. The poor figurante must
devote years of incessant toil to her profitless task before she
can shine in it. When Taglioni was preparing herself for her
evening exhibition, she would, after a severe two hours' lesson
from her father, fall down exhausted, and had to be undressed,
sponged, and resuscitated totally unconscious. The agility and
bounds of the evening were insured only at a price like this.

Progress, however, of the best kind, is comparatively slow. Great
results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to
advance in life as we walk, step by step. De Maistre says that "to
know HOW TO WAIT is the great secret of success." We must sow
before we can reap, and often have to wait long, content meanwhile
to look patiently forward in hope; the fruit best worth waiting for
often ripening the slowest. But "time and patience," says the
Eastern proverb, "change the mulberry leaf to satin."

To wait patiently, however, men must work cheerfully. Cheerfulness
is an excellent working quality, imparting great elasticity to the
character. As a bishop has said, "Temper is nine-tenths of
Christianity;" so are cheerfulness and diligence nine-tenths of
practical wisdom. They are the life and soul of success, as well
as of happiness; perhaps the very highest pleasure in life
consisting in clear, brisk, conscious working; energy, confidence,
and every other good quality mainly depending upon it. Sydney
Smith, when labouring as a parish priest at Foston-le-Clay, in
Yorkshire,--though he did not feel himself to be in his proper
element,--went cheerfully to work in the firm determination to do
his best. "I am resolved," he said, "to like it, and reconcile
myself to it, which is more manly than to feign myself above it,
and to send up complaints by the post of being thrown away, and
being desolate, and such like trash." So Dr. Hook, when leaving
Leeds for a new sphere of labour said, "Wherever I may be, I shall,
by God's blessing, do with my might what my hand findeth to do; and
if I do not find work, I shall make it."

Labourers for the public good especially, have to work long and
patiently, often uncheered by the prospect of immediate recompense
or result. The seeds they sow sometimes lie hidden under the
winter's snow, and before the spring comes the husbandman may have
gone to his rest. It is not every public worker who, like Rowland
Hill, sees his great idea bring forth fruit in his life-time. Adam
Smith sowed the seeds of a great social amelioration in that dingy
old University of Glasgow where he so long laboured, and laid the
foundations of his 'Wealth of Nations;' but seventy years passed
before his work bore substantial fruits, nor indeed are they all
gathered in yet.

Nothing can compensate for the loss of hope in a man: it entirely
changes the character. "How can I work--how can I be happy," said
a great but miserable thinker, "when I have lost all hope?" One of
the most cheerful and courageous, because one of the most hopeful
of workers, was Carey, the missionary. When in India, it was no
uncommon thing for him to weary out three pundits, who officiated
as his clerks, in one day, he himself taking rest only in change of
employment. Carey, the son of a shoe-maker, was supported in his
labours by Ward, the son of a carpenter, and Marsham, the son of a
weaver. By their labours, a magnificent college was erected at
Serampore; sixteen flourishing stations were established; the Bible
was translated into sixteen languages, and the seeds were sown of a
beneficent moral revolution in British India. Carey was never
ashamed of the humbleness of his origin. On one occasion, when at
the Governor-General's table he over-heard an officer opposite him
asking another, loud enough to be heard, whether Carey had not once
been a shoemaker: "No, sir," exclaimed Carey immediately; "only a
cobbler." An eminently characteristic anecdote has been told of
his perseverance as a boy. When climbing a tree one day, his foot
slipped, and he fell to the ground, breaking his leg by the fall.
He was confined to his bed for weeks, but when he recovered and was
able to walk without support, the very first thing he did was to go
and climb that tree. Carey had need of this sort of dauntless
courage for the great missionary work of his life, and nobly and
resolutely he did it.

It was a maxim of Dr. Young, the philosopher, that "Any man can do
what any other man has done;" and it is unquestionable that he
himself never recoiled from any trials to which he determined to
subject himself. It is related of him, that the first time he
mounted a horse, he was in company with the grandson of Mr. Barclay
of Ury, the well-known sportsman; when the horseman who preceded
them leapt a high fence. Young wished to imitate him, but fell off
his horse in the attempt. Without saying a word, he remounted,
made a second effort, and was again unsuccessful, but this time he
was not thrown further than on to the horse's neck, to which he
clung. At the third trial, he succeeded, and cleared the fence.

The story of Timour the Tartar learning a lesson of perseverance
under adversity from the spider is well known. Not less
interesting is the anecdote of Audubon, the American ornithologist,
as related by himself: "An accident," he says, "which happened to
two hundred of my original drawings, nearly put a stop to my
researches in ornithology. I shall relate it, merely to show how
far enthusiasm--for by no other name can I call my perseverance--
may enable the preserver of nature to surmount the most
disheartening difficulties. I left the village of Henderson, in
Kentucky, situated on the banks of the Ohio, where I resided for
several years, to proceed to Philadelphia on business. I looked to
my drawings before my departure, placed them carefully in a wooden
box, and gave them in charge of a relative, with injunctions to see
that no injury should happen to them. My absence was of several
months; and when I returned, after having enjoyed the pleasures of
home for a few days, I inquired after my box, and what I was
pleased to call my treasure. The box was produced and opened; but
reader, feel for me--a pair of Norway rats had taken possession of
the whole, and reared a young family among the gnawed bits of
paper, which, but a month previous, represented nearly a thousand
inhabitants of air! The burning beat which instantly rushed
through my brain was too great to be endured without affecting my
whole nervous system. I slept for several nights, and the days
passed like days of oblivion--until the animal powers being
recalled into action through the strength of my constitution, I
took up my gun, my notebook, and my pencils, and went forth to the
woods as gaily as if nothing had happened. I felt pleased that I
might now make better drawings than before; and, ere a period not
exceeding three years had elapsed, my portfolio was again filled."

The accidental destruction of Sir Isaac Newton's papers, by his
little dog 'Diamond' upsetting a lighted taper upon his desk, by
which the elaborate calculations of many years were in a moment
destroyed, is a well-known anecdote, and need not be repeated: it
is said that the loss caused the philosopher such profound grief
that it seriously injured his health, and impaired his
understanding. An accident of a somewhat similar kind happened to
the MS. of Mr. Carlyle's first volume of his 'French Revolution.'
He had lent the MS. to a literary neighbour to peruse. By some
mischance, it had been left lying on the parlour floor, and become
forgotten. Weeks ran on, and the historian sent for his work, the
printers being loud for "copy." Inquiries were made, and it was
found that the maid-of-all-work, finding what she conceived to be a
bundle of waste paper on the floor, had used it to light the
kitchen and parlour fires with! Such was the answer returned to
Mr. Carlyle; and his feelings may be imagined. There was, however,
no help for him but to set resolutely to work to re-write the book;
and he turned to and did it. He had no draft, and was compelled to
rake up from his memory facts, ideas, and expressions, which had
been long since dismissed. The composition of the book in the
first instance had been a work of pleasure; the re-writing of it a
second time was one of pain and anguish almost beyond belief. That
he persevered and finished the volume under such circumstances,
affords an instance of determination of purpose which has seldom
been surpassed.

The lives of eminent inventors are eminently illustrative of the
same quality of perseverance. George Stephenson, when addressing
young men, was accustomed to sum up his best advice to them, in the
words, "Do as I have done--persevere." He had worked at the
improvement of his locomotive for some fifteen years before
achieving his decisive victory at Rainhill; and Watt was engaged
for some thirty years upon the condensing-engine before he brought
it to perfection. But there are equally striking illustrations of
perseverance to be found in every other branch of science, art, and
industry. Perhaps one of the most interesting is that connected
with the disentombment of the Nineveh marbles, and the discovery of
the long-lost cuneiform or arrow-headed character in which the
inscriptions on them are written--a kind of writing which had been
lost to the world since the period of the Macedonian conquest of

An intelligent cadet of the East India Company, stationed at
Kermanshah, in Persia, had observed the curious cuneiform
inscriptions on the old monuments in the neighbourhood--so old that
all historical traces of them had been lost,--and amongst the
inscriptions which he copied was that on the celebrated rock of
Behistun--a perpendicular rock rising abruptly some 1700 feet from
the plain, the lower part bearing inscriptions for the space of
about 300 feet in three languages--Persian, Scythian, and Assyrian.
Comparison of the known with the unknown, of the language which
survived with the language that had been lost, enabled this cadet
to acquire some knowledge of the cuneiform character, and even to
form an alphabet. Mr. (afterwards Sir Henry) Rawlinson sent his
tracings home for examination. No professors in colleges as yet
knew anything of the cuneiform character; but there was a ci-devant
clerk of the East India House--a modest unknown man of the name of
Norris--who had made this little-understood subject his study, to
whom the tracings were submitted; and so accurate was his
knowledge, that, though he had never seen the Behistun rock, he
pronounced that the cadet had not copied the puzzling inscription
with proper exactness. Rawlinson, who was still in the
neighbourhood of the rock, compared his copy with the original, and
found that Norris was right; and by further comparison and careful
study the knowledge of the cuneiform writing was thus greatly

But to make the learning of these two self-taught men of avail, a
third labourer was necessary in order to supply them with material
for the exercise of their skill. Such a labourer presented himself
in the person of Austen Layard, originally an articled clerk in the
office of a London solicitor. One would scarcely have expected to
find in these three men, a cadet, an India-House clerk, and a
lawyer's clerk, the discoverers of a forgotten language, and of the
buried history of Babylon; yet it was so. Layard was a youth of
only twenty-two, travelling in the East, when he was possessed with
a desire to penetrate the regions beyond the Euphrates.
Accompanied by a single companion, trusting to his arms for
protection, and, what was better, to his cheerfulness, politeness,
and chivalrous bearing, he passed safely amidst tribes at deadly
war with each other; and, after the lapse of many years, with
comparatively slender means at his command, but aided by
application and perseverance, resolute will and purpose, and almost
sublime patience,--borne up throughout by his passionate enthusiasm
for discovery and research,--he succeeded in laying bare and
digging up an amount of historical treasures, the like of which has
probably never before been collected by the industry of any one
man. Not less than two miles of bas-reliefs were thus brought to
light by Mr. Layard. The selection of these valuable antiquities,
now placed in the British Museum, was found so curiously
corroborative of the scriptural records of events which occurred
some three thousand years ago, that they burst upon the world
almost like a new revelation. And the story of the disentombment
of these remarkable works, as told by Mr. Layard himself in his
'Monuments of Nineveh,' will always be regarded as one of the most
charming and unaffected records which we possess of individual
enterprise, industry, and energy.

The career of the Comte de Buffon presents another remarkable
illustration of the power of patient industry as well as of his own
saying, that "Genius is patience." Notwithstanding the great
results achieved by him in natural history, Buffon, when a youth,
was regarded as of mediocre talents. His mind was slow in forming
itself, and slow in reproducing what it had acquired. He was also
constitutionally indolent; and being born to good estate, it might
be supposed that he would indulge his liking for ease and luxury.
Instead of which, he early formed the resolution of denying himself
pleasure, and devoting himself to study and self-culture.
Regarding time as a treasure that was limited, and finding that he
was losing many hours by lying a-bed in the mornings, he determined
to break himself of the habit. He struggled hard against it for
some time, but failed in being able to rise at the hour he had
fixed. He then called his servant, Joseph, to his help, and
promised him the reward of a crown every time that he succeeded in
getting him up before six. At first, when called, Buffon declined
to rise--pleaded that he was ill, or pretended anger at being
disturbed; and on the Count at length getting up, Joseph found that
he had earned nothing but reproaches for having permitted his
master to lie a-bed contrary to his express orders. At length the
valet determined to earn his crown; and again and again he forced
Buffon to rise, notwithstanding his entreaties, expostulations, and
threats of immediate discharge from his service. One morning
Buffon was unusually obstinate, and Joseph found it necessary to
resort to the extreme measure of dashing a basin of ice-cold water
under the bed-clothes, the effect of which was instantaneous. By
the persistent use of such means, Buffon at length conquered his
habit; and he was accustomed to say that he owed to Joseph three or
four volumes of his Natural History.

For forty years of his life, Buffon worked every morning at his
desk from nine till two, and again in the evening from five till
nine. His diligence was so continuous and so regular that it
became habitual. His biographer has said of him, "Work was his
necessity; his studies were the charm of his life; and towards the
last term of his glorious career he frequently said that he still
hoped to be able to consecrate to them a few more years." He was a
most conscientious worker, always studying to give the reader his
best thoughts, expressed in the very best manner. He was never
wearied with touching and retouching his compositions, so that his
style may be pronounced almost perfect. He wrote the 'Epoques de
la Nature' not fewer than eleven times before he was satisfied with
it; although he had thought over the work about fifty years. He
was a thorough man of business, most orderly in everything; and he
was accustomed to say that genius without order lost three-fourths
of its power. His great success as a writer was the result mainly
of his painstaking labour and diligent application. "Buffon,"
observed Madame Necker, "strongly persuaded that genius is the
result of a profound attention directed to a particular subject,
said that he was thoroughly wearied out when composing his first
writings, but compelled himself to return to them and go over them
carefully again, even when he thought he had already brought them
to a certain degree of perfection; and that at length he found
pleasure instead of weariness in this long and elaborate
correction." It ought also to be added that Buffon wrote and
published all his great works while afflicted by one of the most
painful diseases to which the human frame is subject.

Literary life affords abundant illustrations of the same power of
perseverance; and perhaps no career is more instructive, viewed in
this light, than that of Sir Walter Scott. His admirable working
qualities were trained in a lawyer's office, where he pursued for
many years a sort of drudgery scarcely above that of a copying
clerk. His daily dull routine made his evenings, which were his
own, all the more sweet; and he generally devoted them to reading
and study. He himself attributed to his prosaic office discipline
that habit of steady, sober diligence, in which mere literary men
are so often found wanting. As a copying clerk he was allowed 3d.
for every page containing a certain number of words; and he
sometimes, by extra work, was able to copy as many as 120 pages in
twenty-four hours, thus earning some 30s.; out of which he would
occasionally purchase an odd volume, otherwise beyond his means.

During his after-life Scott was wont to pride himself upon being a
man of business, and he averred, in contradiction to what he called
the cant of sonneteers, that there was no necessary connection
between genius and an aversion or contempt for the common duties of
life. On the contrary, he was of opinion that to spend some fair
portion of every day in any matter-of-fact occupation was good for
the higher faculties themselves in the upshot. While afterwards
acting as clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, he performed
his literary work chiefly before breakfast, attending the court
during the day, where he authenticated registered deeds and
writings of various kinds. On the whole, says Lockhart, "it forms
one of the most remarkable features in his history, that throughout
the most active period of his literary career, he must have devoted
a large proportion of his hours, during half at least of every
year, to the conscientious discharge of professional duties." It
was a principle of action which he laid down for himself, that he
must earn his living by business, and not by literature. On one
occasion he said, "I determined that literature should be my staff,
not my crutch, and that the profits of my literary labour, however
convenient otherwise, should not, if I could help it, become
necessary to my ordinary expenses."

His punctuality was one of the most carefully cultivated of his
habits, otherwise it had not been possible for him to get through
so enormous an amount of literary labour. He made it a rule to
answer every letter received by him on the same day, except where
inquiry and deliberation were requisite. Nothing else could have
enabled him to keep abreast with the flood of communications that
poured in upon him and sometimes put his good nature to the
severest test. It was his practice to rise by five o'clock, and
light his own fire. He shaved and dressed with deliberation, and
was seated at his desk by six o'clock, with his papers arranged
before him in the most accurate order, his works of reference
marshalled round him on the floor, while at least one favourite dog
lay watching his eye, outside the line of books. Thus by the time
the family assembled for breakfast, between nine and ten, he had
done enough--to use his own words--to break the neck of the day's
work. But with all his diligent and indefatigable industry, and
his immense knowledge, the result of many years' patient labour,
Scott always spoke with the greatest diffidence of his own powers.
On one occasion he said, "Throughout every part of my career I have
felt pinched and hampered by my own ignorance."

Such is true wisdom and humility; for the more a man really knows,
the less conceited he will be. The student at Trinity College who
went up to his professor to take leave of him because he had
"finished his education," was wisely rebuked by the professor's
reply, "Indeed! I am only beginning mine." The superficial person
who has obtained a smattering of many things, but knows nothing
well, may pride himself upon his gifts; but the sage humbly
confesses that "all he knows is, that he knows nothing," or like
Newton, that he has been only engaged in picking shells by the sea
shore, while the great ocean of truth lies all unexplored before

The lives of second-rate literary men furnish equally remarkable
illustrations of the power of perseverance. The late John Britton,
author of 'The Beauties of England and Wales,' and of many valuable
architectural works, was born in a miserable cot in Kingston,
Wiltshire. His father had been a baker and maltster, but was
ruined in trade and became insane while Britton was yet a child.
The boy received very little schooling, but a great deal of bad
example, which happily did not corrupt him. He was early in life
set to labour with an uncle, a tavern-keeper in Clerkenwell, under
whom he bottled, corked, and binned wine for more than five years.
His health failing him, his uncle turned him adrift in the world,
with only two guineas, the fruits of his five years' service, in
his pocket. During the next seven years of his life he endured
many vicissitudes and hardships. Yet he says, in his
autobiography, "in my poor and obscure lodgings, at eighteenpence a
week, I indulged in study, and often read in bed during the winter
evenings, because I could not afford a fire." Travelling on foot
to Bath, he there obtained an engagement as a cellarman, but
shortly after we find him back in the metropolis again almost
penniless, shoeless, and shirtless. He succeeded, however, in
obtaining employment as a cellarman at the London Tavern, where it
was his duty to be in the cellar from seven in the morning until
eleven at night. His health broke down under this confinement in
the dark, added to the heavy work; and he then engaged himself, at
fifteen shillings a week, to an attorney,--for he had been
diligently cultivating the art of writing during the few spare
minutes that he could call his own. While in this employment, he
devoted his leisure principally to perambulating the bookstalls,
where he read books by snatches which he could not buy, and thus
picked up a good deal of odd knowledge. Then he shifted to another
office, at the advanced wages of twenty shillings a week, still
reading and studying. At twenty-eight he was able to write a book,
which he published under the title of 'The Enterprising Adventures
of Pizarro;' and from that time until his death, during a period of
about fifty-five years, Britton was occupied in laborious literary
occupation. The number of his published works is not fewer than
eighty-seven; the most important being 'The Cathedral Antiquities
of England,' in fourteen volumes, a truly magnificent work; itself
the best monument of John Britton's indefatigable industry.

London, the landscape gardener, was a man of somewhat similar
character, possessed of an extraordinary working power. The son of
a farmer near Edinburgh, he was early inured to work. His skill in
drawing plans and making sketches of scenery induced his father to
train him for a landscape gardener. During his apprenticeship he
sat up two whole nights every week to study; yet he worked harder
during the day than any labourer. In the course of his night
studies he learnt French, and before he was eighteen he translated
a life of Abelard for an Encyclopaedia. He was so eager to make
progress in life, that when only twenty, while working as a
gardener in England, he wrote down in his note-book, "I am now
twenty years of age, and perhaps a third part of my life has passed
away, and yet what have I done to benefit my fellow men?" an
unusual reflection for a youth of only twenty. From French he
proceeded to learn German, and rapidly mastered that language.
Having taken a large farm, for the purpose of introducing Scotch
improvements in the art of agriculture, he shortly succeeded in
realising a considerable income. The continent being thrown open
at the end of the war, he travelled abroad for the purpose of
inquiring into the system of gardening and agriculture in other
countries. He twice repeated his journeys, and the results were
published in his Encyclopaedias, which are among the most
remarkable works of their kind,--distinguished for the immense mass
of useful matter which they contain, collected by an amount of
industry and labour which has rarely been equalled.

The career of Samuel Drew is not less remarkable than any of those
which we have cited. His father was a hard-working labourer of the
parish of St. Austell, in Cornwall. Though poor, he contrived to
send his two sons to a penny-a-week school in the neighbourhood.
Jabez, the elder, took delight in learning, and made great progress
in his lessons; but Samuel, the younger, was a dunce, notoriously
given to mischief and playing truant. When about eight years old
he was put to manual labour, earning three-halfpence a day as a
buddle-boy at a tin mine. At ten he was apprenticed to a
shoemaker, and while in this employment he endured much hardship,--
living, as he used to say, "like a toad under a harrow." He often
thought of running away and becoming a pirate, or something of the
sort, and he seems to have grown in recklessness as he grew in
years. In robbing orchards he was usually a leader; and, as he
grew older, he delighted to take part in any poaching or smuggling
adventure. When about seventeen, before his apprenticeship was
out, he ran away, intending to enter on board a man-of-war; but,
sleeping in a hay-field at night cooled him a little, and he
returned to his trade.

Drew next removed to the neighbourhood of Plymouth to work at his
shoemaking business, and while at Cawsand he won a prize for
cudgel-playing, in which he seems to have been an adept. While
living there, he had nearly lost his life in a smuggling exploit
which he had joined, partly induced by the love of adventure, and
partly by the love of gain, for his regular wages were not more
than eight shillings a-week. One night, notice was given
throughout Crafthole, that a smuggler was off the coast, ready to
land her cargo; on which the male population of the place--nearly
all smugglers--made for the shore. One party remained on the rocks
to make signals and dispose of the goods as they were landed; and
another manned the boats, Drew being of the latter party. The
night was intensely dark, and very little of the cargo had been
landed, when the wind rose, with a heavy sea. The men in the
boats, however, determined to persevere, and several trips were
made between the smuggler, now standing farther out to sea, and the
shore. One of the men in the boat in which Drew was, had his hat
blown off by the wind, and in attempting to recover it, the boat
was upset. Three of the men were immediately drowned; the others
clung to the boat for a time, but finding it drifting out to sea,
they took to swimming. They were two miles from land, and the
night was intensely dark. After being about three hours in the
water, Drew reached a rock near the shore, with one or two others,
where he remained benumbed with cold till morning, when he and his
companions were discovered and taken off, more dead than alive. A
keg of brandy from the cargo just landed was brought, the head
knocked in with a hatchet, and a bowlfull of the liquid presented
to the survivors; and, shortly after, Drew was able to walk two
miles through deep snow, to his lodgings.

This was a very unpromising beginning of a life; and yet this same
Drew, scapegrace, orchard-robber, shoemaker, cudgel-player, and
smuggler, outlived the recklessness of his youth and became
distinguished as a minister of the Gospel and a writer of good
books. Happily, before it was too late, the energy which
characterised him was turned into a more healthy direction, and
rendered him as eminent in usefulness as he had before been in
wickedness. His father again took him back to St. Austell, and
found employment for him as a journeyman shoemaker. Perhaps his
recent escape from death had tended to make the young man serious,
as we shortly find him attracted by the forcible preaching of Dr.
Adam Clarke, a minister of the Wesleyan Methodists. His brother
having died about the same time, the impression of seriousness was
deepened; and thenceforward he was an altered man. He began anew
the work of education, for he had almost forgotten how to read and
write; and even after several years' practice, a friend compared
his writing to the traces of a spider dipped in ink set to crawl
upon paper. Speaking of himself, about that time, Drew afterwards
said, "The more I read, the more I felt my own ignorance; and the
more I felt my ignorance, the more invincible became my energy to
surmount it. Every leisure moment was now employed in reading one
thing or another. Having to support myself by manual labour, my
time for reading was but little, and to overcome this disadvantage,
my usual method was to place a book before me while at meat, and at
every repast I read five or six pages." The perusal of Locke's
'Essay on the Understanding' gave the first metaphysical turn to
his mind. "It awakened me from my stupor," said he, "and induced
me to form a resolution to abandon the grovelling views which I had
been accustomed to entertain."

Drew began business on his own account, with a capital of a few
shillings; but his character for steadiness was such that a
neighbouring miller offered him a loan, which was accepted, and,
success attending his industry, the debt was repaid at the end of a
year. He started with a determination to "owe no man anything,"
and he held to it in the midst of many privations. Often he went
to bed supperless, to avoid rising in debt. His ambition was to
achieve independence by industry and economy, and in this he
gradually succeeded. In the midst of incessant labour, he
sedulously strove to improve his mind, studying astronomy, history,
and metaphysics. He was induced to pursue the latter study chiefly
because it required fewer books to consult than either of the
others. "It appeared to be a thorny path," he said, "but I
determined, nevertheless, to enter, and accordingly began to tread

Added to his labours in shoemaking and metaphysics, Drew became a
local preacher and a class leader. He took an eager interest in
politics, and his shop became a favourite resort with the village
politicians. And when they did not come to him, he went to them to
talk over public affairs. This so encroached upon his time that he
found it necessary sometimes to work until midnight to make up for
the hours lost during the day. His political fervour become the
talk of the village. While busy one night hammering away at a
shoe-sole, a little boy, seeing a light in the shop, put his mouth
to the keyhole of the door, and called out in a shrill pipe,
"Shoemaker! shoe-maker! work by night and run about by day!" A
friend, to whom Drew afterwards told the story, asked, "And did not
you run after the boy, and strap him?" "No, no," was the reply;
"had a pistol been fired off at my ear, I could not have been more
dismayed or confounded. I dropped my work, and said to myself,
'True, true! but you shall never have that to say of me again.' To
me that cry was as the voice of God, and it has been a word in
season throughout my life. I learnt from it not to leave till to-
morrow the work of to-day, or to idle when I ought to be working."

From that moment Drew dropped politics, and stuck to his work,
reading and studying in his spare hours: but he never allowed the
latter pursuit to interfere with his business, though it frequently
broke in upon his rest. He married, and thought of emigrating to
America; but he remained working on. His literary taste first took
the direction of poetical composition; and from some of the
fragments which have been preserved, it appears that his
speculations as to the immateriality and immortality of the soul
had their origin in these poetical musings. His study was the
kitchen, where his wife's bellows served him for a desk; and he
wrote amidst the cries and cradlings of his children. Paine's 'Age
of Reason' having appeared about this time and excited much
interest, he composed a pamphlet in refutation of its arguments,
which was published. He used afterwards to say that it was the
'Age of Reason' that made him an author. Various pamphlets from
his pen shortly appeared in rapid succession, and a few years
later, while still working at shoemaking, he wrote and published
his admirable 'Essay on the Immateriality and Immortality of the
Human Soul,' which he sold for twenty pounds, a great sum in his
estimation at the time. The book went through many editions, and
is still prized.

Drew was in no wise puffed up by his success, as many young authors
are, but, long after he had become celebrated as a writer, used to
be seen sweeping the street before his door, or helping his
apprentices to carry in the winter's coals. Nor could he, for some
time, bring himself to regard literature as a profession to live
by. His first care was, to secure an honest livelihood by his
business, and to put into the "lottery of literary success," as he
termed it, only the surplus of his time. At length, however, he
devoted himself wholly to literature, more particularly in
connection with the Wesleyan body; editing one of their magazines,
and superintending the publication of several of their
denominational works. He also wrote in the 'Eclectic Review,' and
compiled and published a valuable history of his native county,
Cornwall, with numerous other works. Towards the close of his
career, he said of himself,--"Raised from one of the lowest
stations in society, I have endeavoured through life to bring my
family into a state of respectability, by honest industry,
frugality, and a high regard for my moral character. Divine
providence has smiled on my exertions, and crowned my wishes with

The late Joseph Hume pursued a very different career, but worked in
an equally persevering spirit. He was a man of moderate parts, but
of great industry and unimpeachable honesty of purpose. The motto
of his life was "Perseverance," and well, he acted up to it. His
father dying while he was a mere child, his mother opened a small
shop in Montrose, and toiled hard to maintain her family and bring
them up respectably. Joseph she put apprentice to a surgeon, and
educated for the medical profession. Having got his diploma, he
made several voyages to India as ship's surgeon, {19} and
afterwards obtained a cadetship in the Company's service. None
worked harder, or lived more temperately, than he did, and,
securing the confidence of his superiors, who found him a capable
man in the performance of his duty, they gradually promoted him to
higher offices. In 1803 he was with the division of the army under
General Powell, in the Mahratta war; and the interpreter having
died, Hume, who had meanwhile studied and mastered the native
languages, was appointed in his stead. He was next made chief of
the medical staff. But as if this were not enough to occupy his
full working power, he undertook in addition the offices of
paymaster and post-master, and filled them satisfactorily. He also
contracted to supply the commissariat, which he did with advantage
to the army and profit to himself. After about ten years'
unremitting labour, he returned to England with a competency; and
one of his first acts was to make provision for the poorer members
of his family.

But Joseph Hume was not a man to enjoy the fruits of his industry
in idleness. Work and occupation had become necessary for his
comfort and happiness. To make himself fully acquainted with the
actual state of his own country, and the condition of the people,
he visited every town in the kingdom which then enjoyed any degree
of manufacturing celebrity. He afterwards travelled abroad for the
purpose of obtaining a knowledge of foreign states. Returned to
England, he entered Parliament in 1812, and continued a member of
that assembly, with a short interruption, for a period of about
thirty-four years. His first recorded speech was on the subject of
public education, and throughout his long and honourable career he
took an active and earnest interest in that and all other questions
calculated to elevate and improve the condition of the people--
criminal reform, savings-banks, free trade, economy and
retrenchment, extended representation, and such like measures, all
of which he indefatigably promoted. Whatever subject he undertook,
he worked at with all his might. He was not a good speaker, but
what he said was believed to proceed from the lips of an honest,
single-minded, accurate man. If ridicule, as Shaftesbury says, be
the test of truth, Joseph Hume stood the test well. No man was
more laughed at, but there he stood perpetually, and literally, "at
his post." He was usually beaten on a division, but the influence
which he exercised was nevertheless felt, and many important
financial improvements were effected by him even with the vote
directly against him. The amount of hard work which he contrived
to get through was something extraordinary. He rose at six, wrote
letters and arranged his papers for parliament; then, after
breakfast, he received persons on business, sometimes as many as
twenty in a morning. The House rarely assembled without him, and
though the debate might be prolonged to two or three o'clock in the
morning, his name was seldom found absent from the division. In
short, to perform the work which he did, extending over so long a
period, in the face of so many Administrations, week after week,
year after year,--to be outvoted, beaten, laughed at, standing on
many occasions almost alone,--to persevere in the face of every
discouragement, preserving his temper unruffled, never relaxing in
his energy or his hope, and living to see the greater number of his
measures adopted with acclamation, must be regarded as one of the
most remarkable illustrations of the power of human perseverance
that biography can exhibit.


"Neither the naked hand, nor the understanding, left to itself, can
do much; the work is accomplished by instruments and helps, of
which the need is not less for the understanding than the hand."--

"Opportunity has hair in front, behind she is bald; if you seize
her by the forelock you may hold her, but, if suffered to escape,
not Jupiter himself can catch her again."--From the Latin.

Accident does very little towards the production of any great
result in life. Though sometimes what is called "a happy hit" may
be made by a bold venture, the common highway of steady industry
and application is the only safe road to travel. It is said of the
landscape painter Wilson, that when he had nearly finished a
picture in a tame, correct manner, he would step back from it, his
pencil fixed at the end of a long stick, and after gazing earnestly
on the work, he would suddenly walk up and by a few bold touches
give a brilliant finish to the painting. But it will not do for
every one who would produce an effect, to throw his brush at the
canvas in the hope of producing a picture. The capability of
putting in these last vital touches is acquired only by the labour
of a life; and the probability is, that the artist who has not
carefully trained himself beforehand, in attempting to produce a
brilliant effect at a dash, will only produce a blotch.

Sedulous attention and painstaking industry always mark the true
worker. The greatest men are not those who "despise the day of
small things," but those who improve them the most carefully.
Michael Angelo was one day explaining to a visitor at his studio,
what he had been doing at a statue since his previous visit. "I
have retouched this part--polished that--softened this feature--
brought out that muscle--given some expression to this lip, and
more energy to that limb." "But these are trifles," remarked the
visitor. "It may be so," replied the sculptor, "but recollect that
trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle." So it was
said of Nicholas Poussin, the painter, that the rule of his conduct
was, that "whatever was worth doing at all was worth doing well;"
and when asked, late in life, by his friend Vigneul de Marville, by
what means he had gained so high a reputation among the painters of
Italy, Poussin emphatically answered, "Because I have neglected

Although there are discoveries which are said to have been made by
accident, if carefully inquired into, it will be found that there
has really been very little that was accidental about them. For
the most part, these so-called accidents have only been
opportunities, carefully improved by genius. The fall of the apple
at Newton's feet has often been quoted in proof of the accidental
character of some discoveries. But Newton's whole mind had already
been devoted for years to the laborious and patient investigation
of the subject of gravitation; and the circumstance of the apple
falling before his eyes was suddenly apprehended only as genius
could apprehend it, and served to flash upon him the brilliant
discovery then opening to his sight. In like manner, the
brilliantly-coloured soap-bubbles blown from a common tobacco pipe-
-though "trifles light as air" in most eyes--suggested to Dr. Young
his beautiful theory of "interferences," and led to his discovery
relating to the diffraction of light. Although great men are
popularly supposed only to deal with great things, men such as
Newton and Young were ready to detect the significance of the most
familiar and simple facts; their greatness consisting mainly in
their wise interpretation of them.

The difference between men consists, in a great measure, in the
intelligence of their observation. The Russian proverb says of the
non-observant man, "He goes through the forest and sees no
firewood." "The wise man's eyes are in his head," says Solomon,
"but the fool walketh in darkness." "Sir," said Johnson, on one
occasion, to a fine gentleman just returned from Italy, "some men
will learn more in the Hampstead stage than others in the tour of
Europe." It is the mind that sees as well as the eye. Where
unthinking gazers observe nothing, men of intelligent vision
penetrate into the very fibre of the phenomena presented to them,
attentively noting differences, making comparisons, and recognizing
their underlying idea. Many before Galileo had seen a suspended
weight swing before their eyes with a measured beat; but he was the
first to detect the value of the fact. One of the vergers in the
cathedral at Pisa, after replenishing with oil a lamp which hung
from the roof, left it swinging to and fro; and Galileo, then a
youth of only eighteen, noting it attentively, conceived the idea
of applying it to the measurement of time. Fifty years of study
and labour, however, elapsed, before he completed the invention of
his Pendulum,--the importance of which, in the measurement of time
and in astronomical calculations, can scarcely be overrated. In
like manner, Galileo, having casually heard that one Lippershey, a
Dutch spectacle-maker, had presented to Count Maurice of Nassau an
instrument by means of which distant objects appeared nearer to the
beholder, addressed himself to the cause of such a phenomenon,
which led to the invention of the telescope, and proved the
beginning of the modern science of astronomy. Discoveries such as
these could never have been made by a negligent observer, or by a
mere passive listener.

While Captain (afterwards Sir Samuel) Brown was occupied in
studying the construction of bridges, with the view of contriving
one of a cheap description to be thrown across the Tweed, near
which he lived, he was walking in his garden one dewy autumn
morning, when he saw a tiny spider's net suspended across his path.
The idea immediately occurred to him, that a bridge of iron ropes
or chains might be constructed in like manner, and the result was
the invention of his Suspension Bridge. So James Watt, when
consulted about the mode of carrying water by pipes under the
Clyde, along the unequal bed of the river, turned his attention one
day to the shell of a lobster presented at table; and from that
model he invented an iron tube, which, when laid down, was found
effectually to answer the purpose. Sir Isambert Brunel took his
first lessons in forming the Thames Tunnel from the tiny shipworm:
he saw how the little creature perforated the wood with its well-
armed head, first in one direction and then in another, till the
archway was complete, and then daubed over the roof and sides with
a kind of varnish; and by copying this work exactly on a large
scale, Brunel was at length enabled to construct his shield and
accomplish his great engineering work.

It is the intelligent eye of the careful observer which gives these
apparently trivial phenomena their value. So trifling a matter as
the sight of seaweed floating past his ship, enabled Columbus to
quell the mutiny which arose amongst his sailors at not discovering
land, and to assure them that the eagerly sought New World was not
far off. There is nothing so small that it should remain
forgotten; and no fact, however trivial, but may prove useful in
some way or other if carefully interpreted. Who could have
imagined that the famous "chalk cliffs of Albion" had been built up
by tiny insects--detected only by the help of the microscope--of
the same order of creatures that have gemmed the sea with islands
of coral! And who that contemplates such extraordinary results,
arising from infinitely minute operations, will venture to question
the power of little things?

It is the close observation of little things which is the secret of
success in business, in art, in science, and in every pursuit in
life. Human knowledge is but an accumulation of small facts, made
by successive generations of men, the little bits of knowledge and
experience carefully treasured up by them growing at length into a
mighty pyramid. Though many of these facts and observations seemed
in the first instance to have but slight significance, they are all
found to have their eventual uses, and to fit into their proper
places. Even many speculations seemingly remote, turn out to be
the basis of results the most obviously practical. In the case of
the conic sections discovered by Apollonius Pergaeus, twenty
centuries elapsed before they were made the basis of astronomy--a
science which enables the modern navigator to steer his way through
unknown seas and traces for him in the heavens an unerring path to
his appointed haven. And had not mathematicians toiled for so
long, and, to uninstructed observers, apparently so fruitlessly,
over the abstract relations of lines and surfaces, it is probable
that but few of our mechanical inventions would have seen the

When Franklin made his discovery of the identity of lightning and
electricity, it was sneered at, and people asked, "Of what use is
it?" To which his reply was, "What is the use of a child? It may
become a man!" When Galvani discovered that a frog's leg twitched
when placed in contact with different metals, it could scarcely
have been imagined that so apparently insignificant a fact could
have led to important results. Yet therein lay the germ of the
Electric Telegraph, which binds the intelligence of continents
together, and, probably before many years have elapsed, will "put a
girdle round the globe." So too, little bits of stone and fossil,
dug out of the earth, intelligently interpreted, have issued in the
science of geology and the practical operations of mining, in which
large capitals are invested and vast numbers of persons profitably

The gigantic machinery employed in pumping our mines, working our
mills and manufactures, and driving our steam-ships and
locomotives, in like manner depends for its supply of power upon so
slight an agency as little drops of water expanded by heat,--that
familiar agency called steam, which we see issuing from that common
tea-kettle spout, but which, when put up within an ingeniously
contrived mechanism, displays a force equal to that of millions of
horses, and contains a power to rebuke the waves and set even the
hurricane at defiance. The same power at work within the bowels of
the earth has been the cause of those volcanoes and earthquakes
which have played so mighty a part in the history of the globe.

It is said that the Marquis of Worcester's attention was first
accidentally directed to the subject of steam power, by the tight
cover of a vessel containing hot water having been blown off before
his eyes, when confined a prisoner in the Tower. He published the
result of his observations in his 'Century of Inventions,' which
formed a sort of text-book for inquirers into the powers of steam
for a time, until Savary, Newcomen, and others, applying it to
practical purposes, brought the steam-engine to the state in which
Watt found it when called upon to repair a model of Newcomen's
engine, which belonged to the University of Glasgow. This
accidental circumstance was an opportunity for Watt, which he was
not slow to improve; and it was the labour of his life to bring the
steam-engine to perfection.

This art of seizing opportunities and turning even accidents to
account, bending them to some purpose is a great secret of success.
Dr. Johnson has defined genius to be "a mind of large general
powers accidentally determined in some particular direction." Men
who are resolved to find a way for themselves, will always find
opportunities enough; and if they do not lie ready to their hand,
they will make them. It is not those who have enjoyed the
advantages of colleges, museums, and public galleries, that have
accomplished the most for science and art; nor have the greatest
mechanics and inventors been trained in mechanics' institutes.
Necessity, oftener than facility, has been the mother of invention;
and the most prolific school of all has been the school of
difficulty. Some of the very best workmen have had the most
indifferent tools to work with. But it is not tools that make the
workman, but the trained skill and perseverance of the man himself.
Indeed it is proverbial that the bad workman never yet had a good
tool. Some one asked Opie by what wonderful process he mixed his
colours. "I mix them with my brains, sir," was his reply. It is
the same with every workman who would excel. Ferguson made
marvellous things--such as his wooden clock, that accurately
measured the hours--by means of a common penknife, a tool in
everybody's hand; but then everybody is not a Ferguson. A pan of
water and two thermometers were the tools by which Dr. Black
discovered latent heat; and a prism, a lens, and a sheet of
pasteboard enabled Newton to unfold the composition of light and
the origin of colours. An eminent foreign savant once called upon
Dr. Wollaston, and requested to be shown over his laboratories in
which science had been enriched by so many important discoveries,
when the doctor took him into a little study, and, pointing to an
old tea-tray on the table, containing a few watch-glasses, test
papers, a small balance, and a blowpipe, said, "There is all the
laboratory that I have!"

Stothard learnt the art of combining colours by closely studying
butterflies' wings: he would often say that no one knew what he
owed to these tiny insects. A burnt stick and a barn door served
Wilkie in lieu of pencil and canvas. Bewick first practised
drawing on the cottage walls of his native village, which he
covered with his sketches in chalk; and Benjamin West made his
first brushes out of the cat's tail. Ferguson laid himself down in
the fields at night in a blanket, and made a map of the heavenly
bodies by means of a thread with small beads on it stretched
between his eye and the stars. Franklin first robbed the
thundercloud of its lightning by means of a kite made with two
cross sticks and a silk handkerchief. Watt made his first model of
the condensing steam-engine out of an old anatomist's syringe, used
to inject the arteries previous to dissection. Gifford worked his
first problems in mathematics, when a cobbler's apprentice, upon
small scraps of leather, which he beat smooth for the purpose;
whilst Rittenhouse, the astronomer, first calculated eclipses on
his plough handle.

The most ordinary occasions will furnish a man with opportunities
or suggestions for improvement, if he be but prompt to take
advantage of them. Professor Lee was attracted to the study of
Hebrew by finding a Bible in that tongue in a synagogue, while
working as a common carpenter at the repairs of the benches. He
became possessed with a desire to read the book in the original,
and, buying a cheap second-hand copy of a Hebrew grammar, he set to
work and learnt the language for himself. As Edmund Stone said to
the Duke of Argyle, in answer to his grace's inquiry how he, a poor
gardener's boy, had contrived to be able to read Newton's Principia
in Latin, "One needs only to know the twenty-four letters of the
alphabet in order to learn everything else that one wishes."
Application and perseverance, and the diligent improvement of
opportunities, will do the rest.

Sir Walter Scott found opportunities for self-improvement in every
pursuit, and turned even accidents to account. Thus it was in the
discharge of his functions as a writer's apprentice that he first
visited the Highlands, and formed those friendships among the
surviving heroes of 1745 which served to lay the foundation of a
large class of his works. Later in life, when employed as
quartermaster of the Edinburgh Light Cavalry, he was accidentally
disabled by the kick of a horse, and confined for some time to his
house; but Scott was a sworn enemy to idleness, and he forthwith

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