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forth in full lustre, unless it comes in contact with the condi. tions upon which its development depends. Faraday's father, however, like most loving parents, was anxious that his son should take a higher stand in the social scale than himself, and accordingly, after giving him a modest schooling, had him apprenticed to a bookbinder; but though the employment proved uncongenial in itself, it afforded him the privilege of looking into the interior of books as well as of adorning their exterior. An encyclopædia being sent to bind, the youth fastened eagerly upon the article electricity,' and conceived a strong affection for the science in the pursuit of which his greatest triumphs were subsequently won. To most boys, indeed, there is something particularly captivating in the performances of the electric fluid. All its phenomena are brilliant, sparkling, showy, surprising. It charms the youthful imagination to think that it can brew mimic thunder, fill a phial with mock lightning, and manufacture in an exhausted tube an imitation aurora borealis. There is a pleasing horror in contemplating a Leyden jar with its ambushed dangers, and in seeing the fiery element leap forth the moment its lair is approached. Besides, the science has a prankish air, which renders it inexpressibly gratifying to the juvenile heart. To administer a sly shock to a friend or an enemy (the first is preferable on the score of fun, especially considering the air of indignant astonishment with which the outrage is received) is enough to enchant a lad with the machine; but to discharge a whole battery through the body of some unfortunate dog-penitently we plead guilty to the perpetration of a similar atrocity-throws him into paroxysms of delight, and almost suffices to make an electrician of him for life.
In a far more philosophical spirit, however, young Faraday began to experiment for himself, constructing such implements as he required out of the homeliest materials at command. Just as the boy Davy seized upon a superannuated glyster apparatus, and converted it into an air-pump, so his successor in the chieftainship of science raised a medicine phial to the honourable office of a Leyden jar, and a common bottle to the dignity of an electrical machine. All who have worked their way through this introductory stage know that the rude and clumsy contrivances of the tyro afford him far more exquisite enjoyment than instruments of the most costly construction, and of the most consummate workmanship; and that he can wring more pleasure out of a thermometer or electroscope of his own devis. ing, than out of apparatus capable of registering phenomena to a hair.
With this decided bias for science, the young bookbinder
developed an equally decided 'aversion to trade.' He began to look upon the latter as 'vicious and selfish,' whilst he fondly fancied that the pursuits of the philosopher must necessarily render him 'amiable and liberal.'* The moral element-mistaken or not in its manifestations-was already cropping out' strongly in his character. How to escape from business and to enter into the service of science, became a question of paramount importance for him. A simple but fortunate circumstance suggested the course he should pursue. Having obtained admis. sion to a course of lectures which Sir Humphry Davy (then untitled) was delivering at the Royal Institution, his love of natural philosophy was not only strengthened by what he heard, but converted into an inextinguishable passion. In the remarkable man who had just revolutionized chemistry, who had taken the town by storm as a lecturer, and who had inspired people of all grades with a sudden liking for subjects, which till then had been mostly confined to the laboratory (as anatomy is reserved for the dissecting-room), there was much to fascinate, indeed, indelibly to impress a youth who fondly believed that the ways of science must be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths, paths of honour and of peace. That man—the son of a Cornish carver—had come to London with an uncouth appearance, an unfortunate smirk upon his countenance, and such an unprepossessing manner about him, that a dinner-giving publisher thought it necessary to apologize to the company on one occasion for including him amongst the guests. And yet no sooner had this unpromising young Provincial taken his stand in the theatre of the Royal Institution, than crowds flocked to the place to hear the truths of nature eloquently expounded, and to see her phenomena demonstrated by experiments the most vivid and original. Philosophers hastened to the spot, not knowing but that each day might bring forth some striking discovery ; and poets, like Coleridge, went to increase their stock of tropes and metaphors. The sensation created by his first course of · lectures at the Institution (wrote Mr. Purkis), and the enthu'siastic admiration which they obtained, is at this period scarcely to be imagined. Compliments, invitations, and presents were showered upon him in abundance from all quarters; his society was courted by all, and all appeared proud of his acquaintance.' The age, in fact, had just voted a crown of laurel to science, and insisted upon placing it on the head of Davy as her repre
But never amongst the Cornishman's auditors was there one who listened with more earnestness than the young bookbinder,
• Faraday's Letter to Sir Humphry Davy.
whose heart yearned towards philosophy, and who longed, above all things, to escape from the trammels of trade.' Doubtless it was with a flushed countenance and a bounding pulse that he gazed upon the man who talked of nature as if he were closeted with her daily, and who manipulated her phenomena with an air of mastership which was perfectly bewitching. Why should not Faraday follow in the same track, and dedicate himself, however humbly, to the same ennobling pursuits ? But how to obtain footing in the charmed domain of science was the difficulty; for if he went thither at all, it must be in a capacity which would buy him bread, as well as procure him fame or pleasure. He had already tried many experiments, and he was destined to try many more; but probably none ever cost him so much anxiety as the one he now undertook, for the problem before him was how to discover the philosopher's stone, which would convert the leaden duties of trade' into the golden enjoyments of science. At first, it is said, he wrote to Sir Joseph Banks as the official chief of the saransma man, who for forty years presided over their discoveries though he effected none himself, and whose name, as Cuviér remarked in his éloge, ‘brillera avec éclat dans l'histoire des sciences,' though his works 'se réduisent à quelques feuilles.' But the baronet was too busy or too indifferent to attend to an obscure applicant. Faraday then determined to ask assistance from Davy. It was an adventurous step, for how could be expect that the fashionable philosopher, whose weakness for patrician society was developing itself strongly, and had already exposed him to the charge of tuft hunting, would take the slightest notice of an appeal from a discontented bookbinder? But the attempt was made, Faraday forwarding at the same time a copy of the notes he had taken of some lectures delivered by the renowned Cornish
Much to his surprise, more to his delight, the reply was prompt and encouraging. The Napoleon of Chemistry would feel gratified if he could be of any service to his correspondent: he hoped it might be in his power: on returning to town at the end of the next month he would be glad to see Mr. Faraday: 'Sir, your most obedient humble servant, H. Davy.' Certainly not a frosty formal rejoinder, written as it were with an icicle, bidding him be warned at an imaginary fire, or clothed at the expense of the parish or the public, but an epistle with promise in it, and better still, with an air of performance about it which subsequent events did not belie. For, in the course of a few weeks the chemist requested an interview with the bookbinder, and told him that the situation of assistant in the laboratory of the Royal Institution was vacant. Would that suit him? If
so, it might possibly be secured. But-suggested Davy-was it wise for the applicant to relinquish his business pursuits, seeing that science was a 'harsh mistress,' who paid poor wages, took long credit, and sometimes never remunerated her servants at all. It was with a smile on his face that the Cornishman heard the youth unfold his theory of the viciousness' of trade, and of the necessary nobility of a soul immersed in philosophical speculations, but without attempting to dispel the delusion he mildly intimated that a few years' experience would set him right upon that head.
In a short time Faraday matriculated in practical chemistry, Scarcely had he entered upon his duties, when he was invited by Davy to accompany him abroad in the capacity of secretary and assistant experimentalist. The tour was not only scientific, but the Cornishman's fame drew around him, magnet-wise, all the savans who lay in his route, and thus enabled the emancipated bookbinder to see some of the most celebrated men (not being sons of slaughter) the age had produced. At Paris, le Chevalier Davy' was received with all the honours by the chemists ; the junior members of that guild of science, with Thénard at their head, giving him a sumptuous banquet; and the Philomaths, breaking through their rules as to the exclusion of strangers, by inviting him to their anniversary dinner, where, out of compliment to their English guest, they refrained from drinking Napoleon's health, notwithstanding their dread of exciting the Emperor's displeasure. These generous civilities— the two countries being then on hostile terms—do not appear to have been repaid precisely as they deserved. Davy contrived to offend the amour propre of the Frenchmen by a certain assumption of superiority, and particularly by taking out of their hands an inquiry into the nature of iodine, at that time a novel substance with an air of mystery about it; he darting to a conclusion in a few days, whilst they had been dallying with the article for a couple of years. Without attempting to say how far a philosopher should abstain from making a discovery out of
pure national politeness, we are inclined to think Davy should have imitated that exquisite bit of courtesy which gave such a gentlemanly character to the battle of Fontenoy, and exclaimed, 'Après vous, messieurs.' But what could the French expect from their British visitor, when they learned that in wandering through the Louvre the only thing which appeared to strike him in their pictures (the magnificent pillage of many nations), was the 'fine frames;' and that in surveying their sculptures, the only figure which drew forth an exclamation was the alabaster Antinous-What a beautiful stalactite!'
From Paris they proceeded to Montpellier, where they worked hard at that innocent cause of dissension, iodine; thence to Genoa, where they operated frequently upon the electrical eel, but could elicit no decisive results from the tormented animal; and afterwards to Florence, where they subjected diamonds to the action of solar heat, concentrated by means of the great lens preserved in the Cabinet of Natural History. These experiments on the combustion of carbon in its less costly form of charcoal were continued at Rome, the great object being to melt the material, if possible; .for if this could be accomplished, said Davy, playfully, to Mr. Children, ‘you may use diamond in 'the manufacture of gunpowder.' Though he failed in his purpose, he ascertained that this valued gem, burnt in oxygen, affords nothing but pure carbonic acid gas, and that therefore the sparkling stones which glitter on the brow of beauty' are literally nothing more than simple charcoal, glorified in some peculiar way by nature's subtle but incomprehensible chemistry. At Rome, Faraday undertook, under his directions, the repetition of Morichini's magnetic experiments, but these, from their delicate and indeed dubious nature, led to no satisfactory conclusion. Entering Naples, Davy paid his respects in due scientific form to Vesuvius, but the volcano (somewhat more accommodating at a later period of his life) did not indulge in any magnificent displays in honour of its illustrious visitor, though his discovery of the metallic bases of the alkalies and of their extraordinary avidity for oxygen, had enabled him to offer some plausible suggestions respecting the philosophy of burning mountains. Pompeii led him into a chemical investigation of the colours employed by the ancients in their works of art; and in like manner other places furnished professional fuel for the busy intellect of the British inquirer.' Whether Faraday was with him when he went to Pavia to see Volta, whose name is stamped upon one branch of the science of electricity, we are unable to affirm; but if so, it must have been a memorable meeting for the ex-bookbinder, seeing that it shortly devolved upon him to take
and extend the discoveries of the Italian savant, carrying them to issues such as the latter never suspected. It is related in connection with this interview, that when Volta was awaiting the arrival of Davy, he was saluted by an uncouth individual, dressed in a garb of such homely cut that he could scarcely credit his eyes on learning that this personage, who looked neither the gentleman nor the genius, was the first chemist in Europe. What Volta had expected it might be difficult to say; but he could see little in the appearance of his guest to denote a man who became so celebrated, that when a