He is a brave man, who, at the right time and in the right place and manner, lifts his voice against a great evil of the day. Dr. Talmage has recently done this, with an earnestness like that of the old Hebrew prophets. His timely words of warning >an not be unfruitful:
"Of making books there is no end." True in the times so long B.C., how much more true in the times so long A.D.! We see so many books we do not understand what a book is. Stand it on end. Measure it, the height of it, the depth of it, the length of it, the breadth of it. You can not do it. Examine the paper, and estimate the progress made from the time of the impressions on clay, and then on the bark of trees, and from the bark of trees to papyrus, and from papyrus to the hide of wild beasts, and from the hide of wild beasts on down until the miracles of our modern paper manufactories, and then see the paper, white and pure as an infant's soul, waiting for God's inscription. A book! Examine the type of it; examine the printing, and see the progress from the time when Solon's laws were written on oak planks, and Hesiod's poems were written on tables of lead, and the Sinaitic commands were written on tables of stone, on down to Hoe's perfecting printing-press. A book! It took all the universities of the past, all the martyr-fires, all the civilizations, all the battles, all the victories, all the defeats, all the glooms, all the brightnesses, all the centuries, to make it possible. A book! It is the chorus of the ages—it is the drawing-room in which kings and queens, and orators, and poets, and historians, and philosophers come out to greet you. If I worshiped any thing on earth, I would worship that. If I burned incense to any idol, I would build an altar to that. Thank God for good books, helpful books, inspiring books, Christian books, books of men, books of women, books of God. The printing-press is the mightiest agency on earth for good and for evil. The minister of the Gospel standing in a pulpit has a responsible position, but I do not think it is as responsible as the position of an editor or a publisher. Take the simple statistics that our New York dailies now have a circulation of 450,000 per day, and add to it the fact that three of our weekly periodicals have an aggregate circulation of about one million, and then cipher, if you can, how far up and how far down and how far out reach the influences of the American printing-press. I believe the Lord intends the printing-press to be the chief means for the world's rescue and evangelization, and I think that the great last battle of the world will not be fought with swords or guns, but with types and press—a purified Gospel literature triumphing over, trampling down, and crushing out forever that which is depraved. The only way to right a bad book is by printing a good one. The only way to overcome unclean newspaper literature is by scattering abroad that which is healthful. May God speed the cylinders of an honest, intelligent, aggressive, Christian printing-press.
I have to tell you this morning that I believe that the greatest scourge that has ever come upon this nation has been that of unclean journalism. It has its victims in all occupations and departments. It has helped to fill insane asylums and penitentiaries, and alms-houses and dens of shame. The bodies of this infection lie in the hospitals and in the graves, while their souls are being tossed over into a lost eternity, an avalanche of horror and despair. The London plague was nothing to it. That counted its victims by thousands; but this modern pest has already shoveled its millions into the charnel-house of the morally dead. The longest rail train that ever ran over the Erie or the Hudson tracks was not long enough or large enough to carry the beastliness and the putrefaction which have gathered up in the bad books and newspapers of this land in the last twenty years. Now, it is amid such circumstances that I put the questions of overmastering importance to you and your families: What can we do to abate this pestilence? What books and newspapers shall we read? You see I group them together. A newspaper is only a book in a swifter and more portable shape, and the same rules which apply to book-reading will apply to newspaper-reading. What shall we read? Shall our minds be the receptacle of every thing that an author has a mind to write? Shall there be no distinction between the tree of life and the tree of death? Shall we stoop down and drink out of the trough which the wickedness of men has filled with pollution and shame? Shall we mire in impurity, and chase fantastic will-o'-the-wisps across the swamps, when we might walk in the blooming gardens of God? O, no. For the sake of our present and everlasting welfare, we must make an intelligent and Christian choice.
Standing, as we do, chin-deep in fictitious literature, the first question that many of the young people are asking me is, "Shall we read novels?" I reply, there are novels that are pure, good, Christian, elevating to the heart, and ennobling to the life. But I have still further to say, that I believe three-fourths of the novels in this day are baneful and destructive to the last degree. A pure work of fiction is history and poetry combined. It is a history of things around us, with the licenses and the assumed names of poetry. The world can never repay the debt which it owes to such fictitious writers as Hawthorne, Mackenzie, and Landor and Hunt, and others whose names are familiar to all. The follies of high life were never better exposed than by Miss Edgeworth. The memories of the past were never more faithfully embalmed than in the writings of Walter Scott. Cooper's novels are healthfully redolent with the breath of the seaweed and the air of the American forest. Charles Kingsley has smitten the morbidness of the world, and led a great many to appreciate the poetry of sound health, strong muscles, and fresh air. Thackeray did a grand work in caricaturing the pretenders to gentility and high blood. Dickens has built his own monument in his books, which are an everlasting plea for the poor and the anathema of injustice. Now, I say books like these, read at right times and read in right proportion with other books, can not help but be ennobling and purifying. But, alas! for the loathsome and impure literature that has come upon this country in the shape of novels like a freshet overflowing all the banks of decency and common sense. They are coming from some of the most celebrated publishing houses in the country. They are coming with the recommendation of some of our religious newspapers. They lie on your center-table, to curse your children and blast with their infernal fires generations unborn. You find these books in the desk of the school-miss, in the trunk of the young man, in the steamboat cabin, and on the table of the hotel reception-room. You see a light in your child's room late at night. You suddenly go in and say: "What are you doing?". "I am reading." "What are you reading?" "A book." You look at the book. It is a bad book. "Where did you get it?" "I borrowed it." Alas! there are always those abroad who would like to loan your son or daughter a bad book. Everywhere, everywhere an unclean literature. I charge upon it the destruction of ten thousand immortal souls; and I bid you this morning to wake up to the magnitude of the theme. I shall take all the world's literature—good novels and bad; travels, true or false; histories, faithful and incorrect; legends, beautiful and monstrous; all tracts, all chronicles, all epilogues, all family, city, state, national libraries—and pile them up in a pyramid of literature; and then I shall bring to bear upon it some grand, glorious, infallible, unmistakable Christian principles. God help me to speak with reference to the account I must at last render! God help you to listen.
I charge you, in the first place, to stand aloof from all books that give false pictures of human life. Life is neither a tragedy nor a farce. Men are not all either knaves or heroes. Women are neither angels nor furies. And yet if you depended upon much of the literature of the day, you would get the idea that life, instead of being something earnest, something practical, is a fitful and fantastic and extravagant thing. How poorly prepared are that young man and woman for the duties of to-day who spent last night wading through brilliant passages descriptive of magnificent knavery and wickedness! The man will be looking all day long for his heroine in the tin-shop, by the forge or in the factory, in the counting-room, and he will not find her, and he will be dissatisfied. A man who gives himself up to the indiscriminate reading of novels will be nerveless, inane, and a nuisance. He will be fit neither for the store, nor the shop, nor the field. A woman who gives herself up to the indiscriminate reading of novels will be unfitted for the duties of wife, mother, sister, daughter. There she is, hair disheveled, countenance vacant, cheeks pale, hands trembling, bursting into tears at midnight over the woes of some unfortunate. In the day-time, when she ought to be busy, staring by the half-hour at nothing; biting her finger-nails to the quick. The carpet that was plain before will be plainer after having through a romance all night long wandered in tessellated halls of castles, and your industrious companion will be more unattractive than ever now that you have walked in the romance through parks with plumed princesses or lounged in the arbor with the polished desperado. O, these confirmed novel-readers! They are unfit for this life, which is a tremendous discipline. They know not how to go through the furnaces of trial where they must pass, and they are unfitted for a world where every thing we gain we achieve by hard, long continuing, and exhaustive work.
Again, abstain from all those books which, while they have some good things about them, have also an admixture of evil. You have read books that had the two elements in them—the good and the bad. Which stuck to you? The bad! The heart of most people is like a sieve, which lets the small particles of gold fall through, but keeps the great cinders.
Again, abstain from those books which are apologetic of crime. It is a sad thing that some of the best and most beautiful bookbindery, and some of the finest rhetoric, have been brought to make sin attractive. Vice is a horrible thing, anyhow. It is born in shame, and it dies howling in the darkness. In this world it is scourged with a whip of scorpions, but afterward the thunders of God's wrath pursue it across a boundless desert, beating it with ruin and woe. When you come to paint carnality, do not paint it as looking from behind embroidered curtains, or through lattice of royal seraglio, but as writhing in the agonies of a city hospital. Cursed be the books that try to make impurity decent, and crime attractive, and hypocrisy noble! Cursed be the books that swarm with libertines and desperadoes, who make the brain of the young people whirl with villainy. Ye authors who write them, ye publishers who print them, ye book-sellers who distribute them, shall be cut to pieces; if not by an aroused community, then at last by a divine vengeance, which shall sweep to the lowest pit of perdition all ye murderers of souls. I tell you, though you may escape in this world, you will be ground at last under the hoof of eternal calamities, and you will be chained to the rock, and you will have the vultures of despair clawing at your soul, and those whom you have destroyed will come around to torment you and to pour hotter coals of fury upon your head and rejoice eternally in the outcry of your pain and the howl of your damnation! "God shall wound the hairy scalp of him that goeth on in his trespasses." The clock strikes midnight, a fair form bends over a romance. The eyes flash fire. The breath is quick and irregular. Occasionally the color dashes to the cheek, and then dies out. The hands tremble as though a guardian spirit were trying to shake the deadly book out of the grasp. Hot tears fall. She laughs with a shrill voice that drops dead at its own sound. The sweat on her brow is the spray dashed up from the river of Death. The clock strikes four, and the rosy dawn soon after begins to look through the lattice upon the pale form, that looks like a detained specter of the night. Soon in a mad-house, she will mistake her ringlets for curling serpents, and thrust her white hand through the bars of the prison and smite her head, rubbing it back as though to push the scalp from the skull, shrieking, "My brain! my brain!" O, stand off from that. Why will you go sounding your way amidst the reefs and warning buoys, when there is such a vast ocean in which you may voyage, all sail set?
There is one other thing I shall say this morning before I leave you, whether you want to hear it or not; that is, that I consider the bad pictorial literature of the day as most tremendous for ruin. There is no one who can like good pictures better than I do. But what shall I say to the prostitution of this art to purposes of iniquity? These death-warrants of the soul are at every street corner. They smite the vision of the young with pollution. Many a young man buying a copy has bought his eternal discomfiture. There may be enough poison in one bad picture to poison one soul, and that soul may poison ten, and the ten fifty, and the hundreds thousands, until nothing but the measuring line of eternity can tell the height and depth and ghastliness and horror of the great undoing. The work of death that the wicked author does in a whole book the bad engraver may do on half a side of pictorial. Under the disguise of pure mirth the young man buys one of these sheets. He unrolls it before his comrades amid roars of laughter; but long after the paper is gone the results may perhaps be seen in the blasted imaginations of those who saw it. The Queen of Death every night holds a banquet, and these periodicals are the printed invitations to her guests. Alas! that the fair brow of American art should be blotched with this plague spot, and that philanthropists, bothering themselves about smaller evils, should lift up no united and vehement voice against this great calamity! Young man, buy not this moral strychnine for your soul! Pick not up this nest of coiled adders for your pocket! Patronize no news-stand that keeps them! Have your room bright with good engravings, but for these iniquitous pictorials have not one wall, not one bureau, not one pocket. A man is no better than the picture he loves to look at. If your eyes are not pure, you heart can not be. One can guess the character of a man by the kind of pictorial he purchases. When the devil fails to get a man to read a bad book, he sometimes succeeds in getting him to look at a bad picture. When Satan goes a-fishing he does not care whether it is a long line or a short line, if he only draws his victim in.
If I have this morning successfully laid down any principles by which you may judge in regard to books and newspapers, then I have done something of which I shall not be ashamed on the day which shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. Cherish good books and newspapers. Beware of the bad ones. One column may save your soul; one paragraph may ruin it. Go home to-day and look through your library, and then look on the stand where you keep your pictorials and newspapers, and apply the Christian principles I have laid down this morning. If there is any thing in your home that can not stand the test do not give it away, for it might spoil an immortal soul; do not sell it, for the money you get would be the price of blood; but rather kindle a fire on your kitchen hearth, or in your back yard, and then drop the poison in it, and keep stirring the blaze until, from preface to appendix, there shall not be a single paragraph left.
Once in a while there is a mind like a loadstone, which, plunged amidst steel and brass filings, gathers up the steel and repels the brass. But it is generally just the opposite. If you attempt to plunge through a hedge of burs to get one blackberry, you get more burs than blackberries. You can not afford to read a bad book, however good you are. You say: "The influence is insignificant." I tell you that the scratch of a pin has sometimes produced the lock-jaw. Alas, if through curiosity, as many do, you pry into an evil book, your curiosity is as dangerous as that of the man who would stick a torch into a gunpowder mill, merely to see whether it would blow up or not. In a menagerie in New York a man put his hand through the bars of a black leopard's cage. The animal's hide looked so slick and bright and beautiful. He just stroked it once. The monster seized him, and he drew forth a hand, torn, and mangled, and bleeding. O, touch not evil, even with the faintest stroke; though it may be glossy and beautiful, touch it not, lest you pull forth your soul torn and bleeding under the clutch of the black leopard. "But," you say, "how can I find out whether a book is good or bad, without reading it?" There is always something suspicious about a bad book. I never knew an exception. Something suspicious in the index or the style of illustration. This venomous reptile almost always carries a warning rattle.
Again, I charge you to stand off from all those books which corrupt the imagination and inflame the passions. I do not refer now to that kind of a book which the villain has under his coat, waiting for the school to be out, and then looking both ways to see that there is no policeman around the block, offers the book to your son on his way home. I do not speak of that kind of literature, but that which evades the law and comes out in polished style, and with acute plot sounds the tocsin that rouses up all the baser passions of the soul. Years ago a French lady came forth as an authoress, under the assumed name of George Sand, She smoked cigars. She wore gentlemen's apparel. She stepped off the bounds of decency. She wrote with a style ardent, eloquent, mighty in its gloom, horrible in its unchastity, glowing in its verbiage, vivid in its portraiture, damning in its effects, transfusing into the libraries and homes of the world an evil that has not even begun to relent, and she has her copyists in all lands. To-day, under the nostrils of your city, there is a fetid, reeking, unwashed literature enough to poison all the fountains of public virtue and smite your sons and daughters as with the wing of a destroying angel, and it is time that the ministers of the Gospel blew the trumpet and rallied the forces of righteousness, all armed to the teeth, in this great battle against a depraved literature. Why are fifty per cent of the criminals in the jails and penitentiaries of the United States to-day under twenty-one years of age? Many of them under seventeen, under sixteen, under fifteen, under fourteen, under thirteen. Walk along one of the corridors of the Tombs Prison in New York and look for yourselves. Bad books, bad newspapers bewitched them as soon as they got out of the cradle. "O," says some one, "I am a business man, and I have no time to examine what my children read. I have no time to inspect the books that come into my household." If your children were threatened with typhoid fever would you have time to go for the doctor? Would you have time to watch the progress of the disease? Would you have time for the funeral? In the presence of my God, I warn you of the fact that your children are threatened with moral and spiritual typhoid, and that unless this thing be stopped, it will be to them funeral of body, funeral of mind, funeral of soul, three funerals in one day.
Against every bad pamphlet send a good pamphlet; against every unclean picture send an innocent picture; against every scurrilous song send a Christian song; against every bad book send a good book. The good literature, the Christian literature, in its championship for God and the truth, will bring down the evil literature in its championship for the devil. I feel tingling to the tips of my fingers, and through all the nerves of my body, and all the depths of my soul, the certainty of our triumph. Cheer up! O men and women who are toiling for the purification of society. Toil with your faces in the sunlight. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Ye workers in the light, There is a grand to-morrow, After the long and gloomy night, After the pain and sorrow
The purposes of God Do not forever linger; With peace and consolation shod, Do ye not see the finger
Which points the way of life To all down in the valley? Then gird ye, gird ye for the strife; Against the darkness rally.
The victory is yours, And ye are God's forever; For all things He for you secures Through brave and right endeavor.
* * * * *
AND OTHER POEMS.
Sleeping, waking, on we glide, Dreamful, and unsatisfied,
In the heart a vague surprise, Master of the thoughtful eyes.
What though Spring is in the air, And the world is bright and fair?
Something hidden from the sight Dashes fullness of delight.
Soothed are we in duty done, And in something new begun,
Like a kissed and flattered child To denial reconciled;
Yet the something unattained Keeps us like Prometheus chained,
And our hearts intenser grow As the vultures come and go.
Sleeping, waking, on we glide, Dreamful and unsatisfied,
Pilgrims on a foreign shore, Wanting something evermore,
All the shadow in our eyes, All the substance in the skies.
By and by another sleep, Angels watch and ward to keep.
By and by, from wakeful eyes, Nothing of the old surprise,
All pure dreams of earth fulfilled, Every sense with gladness thrilled.
Then are we, no more denied, With Thy likeness satisfied.
* * * * *
Sacrifice! therein I find no superstition of the past, But one of Truth's great words, all life within, As into chaos cast.
God, God put it there, A trumpet-note to every living soul, A prophecy of all that is most fair Through darkness to the goal.
I can not efface The record of this wonder-working Word, Nor in my memory but faintly trace Stern voices I have heard.
Voices come by day Between life's lightning-flash and thunder-peal, And sooner heaven and earth shall pass away Than what they there reveal.
Voices come at night Amid the silence of deluding cares, And pain flows through the darkness and grows bright, And knowledge unawares.
Voices fill the strife To which I give the beauty of my days, And testify that sacrifice is life, Availing prayer and praise.
Life retained is lost, The tocsin of interminable war; And life relinquished is of life the cost, Which shineth as a star.
Tongue can never tell God's revelations in this mighty Word, Nor how the mystery of life they spell, With which all hearts are stirred.
I continue mute, In joyful awe before the Infinite, Until at length eternity transmute My darkness into light.
I can only speak An earth-born language, that does not reveal The infinitude of duty which I seek To utter and but feel.
Duty! heart of joy! Which giveth strength to suffer and endure, Till self-forgetfulness in God's employ Enthrones a life secure.
Shepherd of the sheep, To whom God gives the universal charge, I think of Thy devotion and I weep, Thy love appears so large!
And I think of all The grief which strengthened Thy exalting hand, Until great tears of Easter gladness fall, To think in Thee I stand,
Out of whose great heart So glorious is death's sacrificial knife— To think I know Thee now somewhat, who art The way, the truth, the life;
Who art with Thine own, Where Thou hast been through immemorial years, In every touch of consolation known, In every flood of tears.
* * * * *
The Way of the Lord.
I cast my lot with the surging world, To find out the way of the Lord; A pebble hither and thither hurled, To find out the way of the Lord.
I sought where the foot of man was unknown, To find out the way of the Lord; In the desert alone, alone, alone, To find out the way of the Lord.
I bowed my heart to the voice of the sea, To find out the way of the Lord; To the sob of unuttered mystery, To find out the way of the Lord.
I went down into the depths of my soul, To find out the way of the Lord; Down where the years of eternity roll, To find out the way of the Lord.
Ah, me! I had no interpreter To tell me the way of the Lord; For Nature, it was not in her To tell me the way of the Lord.
I heard of One who came out from God To show me the way of the Lord; I entered the path which here He trod To show me the way of the Lord.
I walked the way of humility To find out the way Of the Lord; It turned to the way of sublimity, To show me the way of the Lord.
From grief and loss came joy and gain, To show me the way of the Lord; And the dead came back to life again, To show me the way of the Lord.
Yea, into the heaven of heavens He went, To show me the way of the Lord; And the Comforter from the Father He sent, To show me the way of the Lord.
I learned how for me He lived and died, To show me the way of the Lord; And bearing the cross, which He glorified, I found out the way of the Lord:
* * * * *
Cross uplifted, clouds are rifted, Vision clearer, God grown dearer! Via crucis via lucis.
Cross, thy way is where the day is; Thy surprises sweet sunrises! Via crucis via lucis.
Life eternal, fair and vernal, Is the glory of the story, Via crucis via lucis;
Dawns in beauty, born of duty, Joins thereafter Heaven's sweet laughter— Via crucis via lucis;
Finds probation tribulation, Onward presses and confesses, Via crucis via lucis;
Bursts the fetter of the letter, Reckons sorrow joy to-morrow— Via crucis via lucis;
To the Master in disaster Bravely clinging, journeys singing, Via crucis via lucis;
Ranges crownward, never downward, Always loving, always proving, Via crucis via lucis;
Drinks forever from the river Everlasting, still forecasting, Via crucis via lucis;
And presages all the ages, Light-enfolden, growing golden, Via crucis via lueis.
O the shinings and refinings! O the sweetness of completeness! Via crucis via lucis!
* * * * *
HEROES OF SCIENCE.
MICHAEL FARADAY—SIR WILLIAM SIEMENS—M. PASTEUR.
The loftiest class of scientists pursue science because they love truth. They derive no animation from the thought of any practical application which they can make from their scientific discoveries. They have no dreams of patents and subsequent royalties, although these sometimes come. They enter upon their work, smit with a passion for truth. If to any one of them it should happen to be pointed out—as Sir Humphrey Davy showed the ardent young Michael Faraday—at the beginning of his career, that science is a hard mistress who pays badly, they are so in love with science that, really and truly, they prefer from their very hearts to live with her on bread and water in a garret to living without her in palaces in which they might fare sumptuously every day.
There are others by whom science is regarded only in the measure of its fruitfulness in producing material wealth. Their great men are not the discoverers of principles, but the inventors, the men who can apply the discoveries of others to supplying such wants as men are willing to pay largely to have satisfied. As has been said—
"To some she is the goddess great; To some the milch-cow of the field; Their business is to calculate The butter she will yield."
Our highest admiration must be for the discoverers; but we may do well to remind ourselves, from time to time, that to such men we are indebted not only for thrilling insight into the beautiful mysteries of nature, and for the withdrawal of the veil which shuts out from ordinary sight the august magnificences of nature, but also for the discovery of those principles which can be turned to the best practical account, ministering to us in our kitchens and bed-chambers and drawing-rooms and factories and shops and fields, filling our nights with brilliancy and our days with potencies, giving to each man the capability of accomplishing in one year what his ancestors, who lived in unscientific ages, could not have achieved in twenty; not only exhibiting the forces of nature as steeds, but also showing how they may be harnessed to the chariots of civilization.
To keep us in healthful gratitude to the men who, having turned away from the marts of the money-makers, have unselfishly set themselves to discover what will enrich the money-makers, and, content to live in simple sorts of ways, have sent down beauty and comfort into the homes of rich and poor, it is well to make an occasional resume of the results of the work of useful scientists, and ponder the lessons of their single-mindedness.
Few names on the roll of the worthies of science are better known through all the world than that of Michael Faraday, who was born in England in 1791 and died in 1867. Rising from poverty, he became assistant to Sir Humphrey Davy, in the Royal Institution, London, where he soon exhibited great ability as an experimenter, and a rare genius for discovering the secret relation of distant phenomena to one another, which gave him his skill as a discoverer, so that he came to be regarded, according to Professor Tyndall, "the prince of the physical investigators of the present age," "the greatest experimental philosopher the world has ever seen."
His greatest discoveries may be stated to have been magneto-electric induction, electro-chemical decomposition, the magnetization of light, and diamagnetism, the last announced in his memoir as the "magnetic condition of all matter." There were many minor discoveries. The results of his labors are apparent in every field of science which has been cultivated since his day. Indeed, they made a great enlargement of that field. His life of simple independence was a great contribution to the highest wealth of the world. He might have been rich. He lived in simplicity and died poor. It is calculated that, if he had made commercial uses of his earlier discoveries, he might easily have gathered a fortune of a million of dollars. He preferred to use his extraordinary endowments for the promotion of science, from which he would not be turned away by honors or money, declining the presidency of the Royal Institution, which was urged upon him, preferring to "remain plain Michael Faraday to the last," that he might make mankind his legatees.
While Faraday does not claim the parentage of the electric telegraph, he was among the earliest laborers in the practical application of his own discoveries, without which the telegraph would probably never have had existence. It was on his advice that Mr. Cyrus W. Field determined to push the enterprise of the submarine cable. His labors were essential to the success of the efforts of his friend Wheatstone in telegraphy. It was his genius which discovered the method of preventing the incrustation by ice of the windows of light-houses, and also a method for the prevention of the fouling of air in brilliantly lighted rooms, by which health was impaired and furniture injured. He discovered a light, volatile oil, which he called "bicarburet of hydrogen." It is now known to us as benzine, which is so largely employed in the industrial arts. Treated by nitric acid, that has produced a substance largely used by the perfumer and the confectioner. From that came the wonderful base aniline, which was not only useful in the study of chemistry, as throwing light on the internal structure of organic compounds, but has come also into commerce, creating a great branch of industry, by giving strong and high colors which can be fixed on cotton, woolen, and silken fabrics. It may be worth while to notice what gratifying beauty was provided for the eye, while profitable work was afforded to the industrious.
It is not to be forgotten that, whatever we have of magneto-electric light, in all its various applications, is due to Faraday's discoveries.
Faraday's distinguished successor, Professor Tyndall, in his admirable and generous tribute to his famous predecessor, says: "As far as electricity has been applied for medical purposes, it is almost exclusively Faraday's." How much of addition to human comfort that one sentence includes, who can estimate? And who can calculate the money-value to commerce in the production of instruments used in the application of electricity to medicine? Professor Tyndall continues: "You have noticed those lines of wire which cross the streets of London. It is Faraday's currents that speed from place to place through these wires. Approaching the point of Dungeness, the mariner sees an unusually brilliant light, and from the noble Pharos of La Heve the same light flashes across the sea. These are Faraday's sparks, exalted by suitable machinery to sunlight splendor. At the present moment (1868), the Board of Trade and the Brethren of the Trinity House, as well as the Commissioners of Northern Lights, are contemplating the introduction of the magneto-electric light at numerous points upon our coast; and future generations will be able to point to those guiding stars in answer to the question, what has been the practical use of the labors of Faraday?"
One of the most useful of modern men was Sir William Siemens, who was born in 1823 and died in 1883. The year before his death he was president of the British Association, and was introduced by his predecessor, Sir J. Lubbock, with the statement that "the leading idea of Dr. Siemens's life had been to economize and utilize the force of Nature for the benefit of man." It is not our purpose to give a sketch of his life, or a catalogue of his many inventions, all of which were useful. It was his comprehensive and accurate study of the universe which led him to discover, as he thought, that it is a vast regenerative gas furnace. The theory has been that the sun is cooling down; but Dr. Siemens saw that the water, vapor, and carbon compounds of the interstellar spaces are returned to the sun, and that the action of the sun on these literally converted the universe into a regenerative furnace. On a small scale, in a way adapted to ordinary human uses, and by ingenious contrivances, he produced a regenerative gas furnace which so utilized what had hitherto been wasted that, in the last lecture delivered by Michael Faraday (1862) before the Royal Society, he praised the qualities of the furnace for its economy and ease of management; and it soon came into general use. It is probably impossible to calculate the amount of saving to the world due to his practical application of the theory of the conservation of force to the pursuits of industry. It has changed the processes for the production of steel so as to make it much cheaper, and so revolutionized ship-building. The carrying power of steel ships is so much greater than that of iron ships that the former earn twenty-five per centum more than the latter. So great a gain is this, that one-fourth the total tonnage of British ship-building in 1883 consisted of steel vessels.
Sir William Siemens's name is popularly associated with electric light. Perhaps it can not be claimed that he was the sole inventor of it, since Faraday had discovered the principle, and at the meeting of the Royal Society, in 1867, at which Siemens's paper was read, the same application of the principle was announced in a paper which had been prepared by Sir Charles Wheatstone, and a patent had been sought by Mr. Cromwell Varley, whose application involved the same idea. But it is believed that Sir William did more than any other man to make the discovery of wide and great practical benefit. His dynamo machine is capable of transforming into electrical energy ninety per cent of the mechanical energy employed. His inventions for the application of electricity to industry are too numerous to mention. He has made it a hewer of wood and a drawer of water and a general farm-hand, and has shown how it can be applied to the raising and ripening of fruits. He has shown us how gas can be made so that its "by-products" shall pay for its production, and demonstrated that a pound of gas yields, in burning, 22,000 units, being double that produced by the combustion of a pound of common coal. He has put the world in the way of making gas cheap and brilliant. His sudden death prevented the completion of plans by which London will save three-fourths of its coal bill by getting rid of its hideous fog. His suggestions will, undoubtedly, be carried out. He was also the inventor of the "chronometric governor," an apparatus which regulates the movements of the great transit instruments at Greenwich.
These are some of the practical benefits bestowed upon mankind by Sir William Siemens. He did much, by stimulating men, to make science practically useful, and has left suggestions which, if followed out with energy and wisdom, will add greatly to the comfort of the world. He calculated that "all the coal raised throughout the world would barely suffice to produce the amount of power that runs to waste at Niagara alone," and said that it would not be difficult to realize a large proportion of this wasted power by-turbines, and to use it at greater distances by means of dynamo-electrical machines. Myriads of future inhabitants of America are probably to reap untold wealth and comfort from what was said and done by Sir William Siemens.
M. Pasteur, now a member of the French Academy, after years of scientific training and study and teaching, began a career of public usefulness which has been a source of incalculable pecuniary profit to his country and to the world.
He began to study the nature of fermentation; and the result of this study made quite a revolution in the manufacture of wine and beer. He discovered a process which took its name from him; and now "pasteurization" is practiced on a large scale in the German breweries, to the great improvement of fermented beverages.
This attracted the attention of the French Government. At that time an unknown disease was destroying the silk-worm of France and Italy. It was so wide-spread as to threaten to destroy the silk manufacture in those countries. M. Pasteur was asked to investigate the cause. At that time he had scarcely ever seen a silk-worm; but he turned his acute, and practical intellect to the study of this little worker, and soon detected the trouble. He showed that it was due to a microscopic parasite, which was developed from a germ born with the worm; and he pointed out how to secure healthy eggs, and so rear healthy worms. He thus gave his countrymen the knowledge necessary to the saving of the French silk industry, and to a very large increase of the value of the annual productiveness of the country.
Of course, a man who had gone thus far could not stop. If he "could save the silk-worm, he might save larger animals. France was losing sheep and oxen at the rate of from fifteen to twenty millions annually. The services of M. Pasteur were again in demand. Again he discovered that the devastator was a microscopic destroyer. It was anthrax. The result of his experimenting was the discovery of an antidote, a method of prevention by inoculation with attenuated microbes. Similar studies and experiments and discoveries enabled him to furnish relief to the hog, at a time when the hog-cholera was making devastations. As he had discovered a preventive remedy for anthrax, he also found a remedy for chicken-cholera, to the saving of poultry to an incalculable extent.
Having thus contributed more to the material wealth of his country than any other living Frenchman, M. Pasteur naturally turned his discovery of the parasitic origin of disease toward human sufferers. A man of convictions and of faith, he has had the courage to ask the French minister of commerce to organize a scientific commission to go to Egypt to study the cholera there under his guidance.
M. Paul Best, who was M. Pasteur's early rival in scientific discussion, paid a generous tribute to his great ability and services, and declared that the discovery of the prevention of anthrax was the grandest and most fruitful of all French discoveries. M. Pasteur's native town, Dole, on the day of the national fete last year (1883), placed a commemorative tablet on the house in which he was born. The government's grant of a pension of $5,000 a year, to be continued to his widow and children, was made on the knowledge that if M. Pasteur had retained proprietary right in his discovery, he might have amassed a vast fortune; but he had freely given all to the public. According to an estimate made by Professor Huxley, the labors of M. Pasteur are equal in money value alone to the one thousand millions of dollars of indemnity paid by France to Germany in the late war. It is also to be remembered that M. Pasteur's labors imparted stimulus to discovery in many directions, setting many discoverers at work, who are now experimenting on the working hypothesis of the parasitic origin of all other infectious diseases.
Now here are three men, to whom the world is probably more indebted than to any other twenty men who have lived this century; indebted for health, wealth, comfort, and enjoyment; indebted in kitchen, chamber, drawing-room, counting-house; at home and abroad, by day and by night, for gratification of the bodily and aesthetic taste. They were the almoners of science. Practical men would have no tools to work with if they did not receive them from those who, in abstraction, wrought in the secluded heights of scientific investigation. It is base to be ungrateful to the studious recluses who are the devotees of science.
These three men were Christians—simple, honest, devout Christians. Faraday was a most "just and faithful knight of God," as Professor Tyndall says. Sir William Siemens, it is said, was a useful elder in the Presbyterian Church, and M. Pasteur, still living, is a reverent Roman Catholic. Surely, when we find these men walking a lofty height of science, higher than that occupied by any of their contemporaries, and when we find these men sending down more enriching gifts to the lowly sons of toil, and all the traders in the market places, and all seekers of pleasure in the world, than any other scientific men, we must be safe in the conclusion that to be an earnest Christian is not incompatible with the highest attainments in science; and we can not find fault with those who look with contempt upon the men who disdain Christianity, as if it were beneath them, when it is remembered that among the rejecters of our holy faith are no men to whom we have a right to be grateful for any discovery that has added a dollar to the world's exchequer, or a "ray to the brightness of the world's civilization."—DR. DEEMS, in the New York Independent.
* * * * *
MY UNCLE TOBY
ONE OF THE BEAUTIFUL CREATIONS OF A GREAT GENIUS.
"If I were requested," says Leigh Hunt in his "Essay on Wit and Humor," "to name the book of all others which combines wit and humor under their highest appearance of levity with the profoundest wisdom, it would be 'Tristram Shandy,'" the chief work of Laurence Sterne, who was born in 1713, and died in 1768. The following story of LeFevre, drawn from that unique book, full of simple pathos and gentle kindness, presents, perhaps, the best picture of the character that names this chapter:
It was some time in the Summer of that year in which Dendermond was taken by the allies—which was about seven years before my father came into the country, and about as many after the time that my uncle Toby and Trim had privately decamped from my father's house in town, in order to lay some of the finest sieges to some of the finest fortified cities in Europe—when my uncle Toby was one evening getting his supper, with Trim sitting behind him at a small sideboard, the landlord of a little inn in the village came into the parlor, with an empty phial in his hand, to beg a glass or two of sack. "'Tis for a poor gentleman, I think, of the army," said the landlord, "who has been taken ill at my house four days ago, and has never held up his head since, or had a desire to taste any thing till just now, that he has a fancy for a glass of sack and a thin toast. 'I think,' says he, taking his hand from his forehead, 'it would comfort me.'"
"If I could neither beg, borrow, nor buy such a thing," added the landlord, "I would almost steal it for the poor gentleman, he is so ill. I hope in God he will still mend," continued he; "we are all of us concerned for him."
"Thou art a good-natured soul, I will answer for thee," cried my uncle Toby; "and thou shalt drink the poor gentleman's health in a glass of sack thyself—and take a couple of bottles, with my service, and tell him he is heartily welcome to them, and to a dozen more if they will do him good."
"Though I am persuaded," said my uncle Toby, as the landlord shut the door, "he is a very compassionate fellow, Trim, yet I can not help entertaining a very high opinion of his guest, too; there must be something more than common in him, that in so short a time should win so much upon the affections of his host." "And of his whole family," added the corporal, "for they are all concerned for him." "Step after him," said my uncle Toby; "do, Trim; and ask if he knows his name."
"I have quite forgot it, truly," said the landlord, coming back into the parlor with the corporal, "but I can ask his son again." "Has a son with him then?" said my uncle Toby. "A boy," replied the landlord, "of about eleven or twelve years of age; but the poor creature has tasted almost as little as his father; he does nothing but mourn and lament for him night and day; he has not stirred from the bedside these two days."
My uncle Toby laid down his knife and fork, and thrust his plate from before him, as the landlord gave him the account; and Trim, without being ordered, took them away without saying one word, and in a few minutes after brought him his pipe and tobacco.
"Stay in the room a little," says my uncle Toby. "Trim," said my uncle Toby, after he had lighted his pipe and smoked about a dozen whiffs. Trim came in front of his master and made his bow; my uncle Toby smoked on and said no more. "Corporal," said my uncle Toby. The corporal made his bow. My uncle Toby proceeded no farther, but finished his pipe. "Trim," said my uncle Toby, "I have a project in my head, as it is a bad night, of wrapping myself up warm in my roquelaure, and paying a visit to this poor gentleman." "Your honor's roquelaure," replied the corporal, "has not been had on since the night before your honor received your wound, when we mounted guard in the trenches before the gate of St. Nicholas; and, besides, it is so cold and rainy a night, that what with the roquelaure and what with the weather, 't will be enough to give your honor your death, and bring on your honor's torment in your groin." "I fear so," replied my uncle Toby; "but I am not at rest in my mind, Trim, since the account the landlord has given me. I wish I had not known so much of this affair," added my uncle Toby, "or that I had known more of it. How shall we manage it!" "Leave it, an 't please your honor, to me," quoth the corporal; "I'll take my hat and stick, and go to the house, reconnoitre, and act accordingly; and I will bring your honor a full account in an hour." "Thou shalt go, Trim," said my uncle Toby, "and here's a shilling for thee to drink with his servant." "I shall get it all out of him," said the corporal, shutting the door. My uncle Toby filled his second pipe; and, had it not been that he now and then wandered from the point, with considering whether it was not full as well to have the curtain of the tennaile a straight line as a crooked one, he might be said to have thought of nothing else but poor LeFevre and his boy the whole time he smoked it.
My uncle Toby had knocked the ashes out of his third pipe, when Trim returned and gave the following account:
"I despaired at first," said the corporal, "of being able to bring back your honor any kind of intelligence concerning the poor sick lieutenant." "Is he in the army, then?" said my uncle Toby. "He is," said the corporal. "And in what regiment?" said my uncle Toby. "I'll tell your honor," replied the corporal, "every thing straight forward, as I learnt it." "Then, Trim, I'll fill another pipe," said my uncle Toby, "and not interrupt thee till thou hast done; so sit down at thy ease, Trim, in the window-seat, and begin thy story again." The corporal made his old bow, which generally spoke as plain as a bow could speak it. "Your honor is good," and, having done that, he sat down as he was ordered, and began the story to my uncle Toby over again, in pretty nearly the same words.
"I despaired at first," said the corporal, "of being able to bring back any intelligence to your honor about the lieutenant and his son; for when I asked where his servant was, from whom I made myself sure of knowing every thing which was proper to be asked"—"That's a right distinction, Trim," said my uncle Toby. "I was answered, an please your honor, that he had no servant with him; that he had come to the inn with hired horses, which, upon finding himself unable to proceed (to join, I suppose, the regiment), he had dismissed the morning after he came. 'If I get better, my dear,' said he, as he gave his purse to his son to pay the man, 'we can hire horses from hence.' 'But, alas! the poor gentleman will never get from hence,' said the landlady to me, 'for I heard the death-watch all night long; and when he dies, the youth, his son, will certainly die with him, for he is broken-hearted already.'
"I was hearing this account," continued the corporal, "when the youth came into the kitchen to order the thin toast the landlord spoke of; 'but I will do it for my father myself,' said the youth. 'Pray let me save you the trouble, young gentleman,' said I, taking up a fork for the purpose, and offering him my chair to sit down upon by the fire, whilst I did it. 'I believe, sir,' said he, very modestly, 'I can please him best myself.' 'I am sure,' said I, 'his honor will not like the toast the worse for being toasted by an old soldier.' The youth took hold of my hand and instantly burst into tears."
"Poor youth," said my uncle Toby, "he has been bred up from an infant in the army, and the name of a soldier, Trim, sounded in his ears like the name of a friend; I wish I had him here."
"I never, in the longest march," said the corporal, "had so great a mind to my dinner as I had to cry with him for company. What could be the matter with me, an' please your honor?" "Nothing in the world, Trim," said my uncle Toby, blowing his nose; "but that thou art a good-natured fellow."
"When I gave him the toast," continued the corporal, "I thought it was proper to tell him I was Captain Shandy's servant, and that your honor (though a stranger) was extremely concerned for his father; and that if there was any thing in your house or cellar, ('and thou mightst have added my purse, too,' said my uncle Toby,) he was heartily welcome to it. He made a very low bow (which was meant to your honor), but no answer—for his heart was full—so he went upstairs with the toast. 'I warrant you, my dear,' said I, as I opened the kitchen door, 'your father will be well again.' Mr. Yorick's curate was smoking a pipe by the kitchen fire, but said not a word, good or bad, to comfort the youth. I thought it was wrong," added the corporal. "I think so, too," said my uncle Toby.
"When the lieutenant had taken his glass of sack and toast, he felt himself a little revived, and sent down into the kitchen to let me know that in about ten minutes he should be glad if I would come upstairs. 'I believe,' said the landlord, 'he was going to say his prayers, for there was a book laid upon the chair by his bedside; and as I shut the door I saw his son take up a cushion.'
"'I thought,' said the curate, 'that you gentlemen of the army, Mr. Trim, never said your prayers at all.' 'I heard the poor gentleman say his prayers last night,' said the landlady, 'very devoutly, and with my own ears, or I could not have believed it.' 'Are you sure of it,' replied the curate. 'A soldier, an' please your reverence,' said I, 'prays as often (of his own accord) as a parson; and when he is fighting for his king and for his own life, and for his honor too, he has the most reason to pray to God of any one in the whole world.'" "'Twas well said of thee, Trim," said my uncle Toby. "'But when a soldier,' said I, 'an' please your reverence, has been standing for twelve hours together in the trenches up to his knees in cold water, or engaged,' said I, 'for months together in long and dangerous marches; harassed, perhaps, in his rear to-day; harassing others to-morrow; detached here; countermanded there; resting this night upon his arms; beat up in his shirt the next; benumbed in his joints; perhaps without straw in his tent to kneel on, he must say his prayers how and when he can, I believe,' said I, for I was piqued," quoth the corporal, "for the reputation of the army. 'I believe, an't please your reverence,' said I, 'that when a soldier gets time to pray, he prays as heartily as a parson, though not with all his fuss and hypocrisy.'" "Thou shouldst not have said that, Trim," said my uncle Toby, "for God only knows who is a hypocrite and who is not. At the great and general review of us all, corporal, at the day of judgment (and not till then), it will be seen who has done their duties in this world and who has not; and we shall be advanced, Trim, accordingly." "I hope we shall," said Trim. "It is in the Scripture," said my uncle Toby, "and I will show it thee to-morrow. In the meantime, we may depend upon it, Trim, for our comfort," said my uncle Toby, "that God Almighty is so good and just a governor of the world, that if we have but done our duties in it, it will never be inquired into whether we have done them in a red coat or a black one." "I hope not," said the corporal. "But go on, Trim," said my uncle Toby, "with thy story."
"When, I went up," continued the corporal, "into the lieutenant's room, which I did not do till the expiration of the ten minutes, he was lying in his bed with his head raised up on his hand, with his elbow upon the pillow, and a clean white cambric handkerchief beside it. The youth was just stooping down to take up the cushion upon which I supposed he had been kneeling; the book was laid upon the bed, and as he rose, in taking up the cushion with one hand, he reached out his other to take it away at the same time. 'Let it remain there, my dear,' said the lieutenant.
"He did not offer to speak to me till I had walked up close to his bedside. 'If you are Captain Shandy's servant,' said he, 'you must present my thanks to your master, with my little boy's thanks along with them, for his courtesy to me, if he was of the Leven's,' said the lieutenant. I told him your honor was. 'Then,' said he, 'I served three campaigns with him in Flanders, and remember him; but 't is most likely, as I had not the honor of any acquaintance with him, that he knows nothing of me. You will tell him, however, that the person his good nature has laid under obligations to him, is one LeFevre, a lieutenant in Angus's; but he knows me not,' said he a second time, musing. 'Possibly, he may my story,' added he; 'pray tell the captain I was the ensign at Breda whose wife was most unfortunately killed with a musket-shot, as she lay in my arms in my tent.' 'I remember the story, an't please your honor,' said I, very well.' 'Do you so?' said he, wiping his eyes with his handkerchief; 'then well may I.' In saying this, he drew a little ring out of his bosom, which seemed tied with a black ribbon about his neck, and kissed it twice. 'Here, Billy,' said he. The boy flew across the room to the bedside, and, falling down upon his knee, took the ring in his hand, and kissed it, too; then kissed his father, and sat down upon the bed and wept."
"I wish," said my uncle Toby, with a deep sigh, "I wish, Trim, I was asleep."
"Your honor," replied the corporal, "is too much concerned. Shall I pour your honor out a glass of sack to your pipe?" "Do, Trim," said my uncle Toby.
"I remember," said my uncle Toby, sighing again, "the story of the ensign and his wife, with a circumstance his modesty omitted; and particularly well that he, as well as she, upon some account or other (I forget what), was universally pitied by the whole regiment; but finish the story thou art upon." "Tis finished already," said the corporal, "for I could stay no longer, so wished his honor good-night." Young LeFevre rose from off the bed and saw me to the bottom of the stairs; and, as we went down together, told me they had come from Ireland, and were on their route to join their regiment in Flanders. "But, alas," said the corporal, "the lieutenant's last day's march is over." "Then what is to become of his poor boy?" cried my uncle Toby.
It was to my uncle Toby's eternal honor, though I tell it only for the sake of those who, when cooped in betwixt a natural and a positive law, know not, for their souls, which way in the world to turn themselves, that, notwithstanding my uncle Toby was warmly engaged at that time in carrying on the siege of Dendermond, parallel with the allies, who pressed theirs on so vigorously that they scarce allowed him to get his dinner, that, nevertheless, he gave up Dendermond, although he had already made a lodgment upon the counterscarp, and bent his whole thoughts-toward the private distresses at the inn, and that, except that he ordered the garden gate to be bolted up, by which he might be said to have turned the siege of Dendermond into a blockade, he left Dendermond to itself, to be relieved or not by the French king as the French king thought good, and only considered how he himself should relieve the poor lieutenant and his son.
That kind Being, who is a friend to the friendless, shall recompense thee for this.
"Thou hast left this matter short," said my uncle Toby to the corporal, as he was putting him to bed, "and I will tell thee in what, Trim. In the first place, when thou madest an offer of my services to LeFevre, as sickness and traveling are both expensive, and thou knewest he was but a poor lieutenant, with a son to subsist as well as himself out of his pay, that thou didst not make an offer to him of my purse, because, had he stood in need, thou knowest, Trim, he had been as welcome to it as myself."
"Your honor knows," said the corporal, "I had no orders." "True," quoth my uncle Toby, "thou did'st very right, Trim, as a soldier, but certainly very wrong as a man."
"In the second place, for which, indeed, thou hast the same excuse," continued my uncle Toby, "when thou offeredst him whatever was in my house, thou shouldst have offered him my house, too. A sick brother officer should have the best quarters, Trim, and if we had him with us, we could tend and look to him. Thou art an excellent nurse thyself, Trim, and what with thy care of him, and the old woman's, and his boy's and mine together, we might recruit him again at once and set him upon his legs."
"In a fortnight, or three weeks," added my uncle Toby, smiling, "he might march." "He will never march, an', please your honor, in this world," said the corporal. "He will march," said my uncle Toby, rising from the side of the bed with one shoe off. "An', please your honor," said the corporal, "he will never march, but to his grave." "He shall march," cried my uncle Toby, marching the foot which had a shoe on, though without advancing an inch, "he shall march to his regiment." "He can not stand it," said the corporal. "He shall be supported," said my uncle Toby. "He'll drop at last," said the corporal, "and what will become of his boy?" "He shall not drop," said my uncle Toby, firmly. "Ah, welladay, do what we can for him," said Trim, maintaining his point, "the poor soul will die." "He shall not die, by G—d," cried my uncle Toby.
The accusing spirit which flew up to heaven's chancery with the oath, blushed as he gave it in, and the recording angel, as he wrote it down, dropped a tear upon the word and blotted it out forever.
My uncle Toby went to his bureau, put his purse into his breeches pocket, and, having ordered the corporal to go early in the morning for a physician, he went to bed and fell asleep.
The sun looked bright the morning after to every eye in the village but LeFevre's and his afflicted son's; the hand of death pressed heavy upon his eyelids, and hardly could the wheel at the cistern turn round its circle when my uncle Toby, who had rose up an hour before his wonted time, entered the lieutenant's room, and, without preface or apology, set himself down upon the chair by the bedside, and independently of all modes and customs, opened the curtain in the manner an old friend and brother officer would have done it, and asked him how he did; how he had rested in the night; what was his complaint; where was his pain, and what could he do to help him? and without giving him time to answer any one of the inquiries, went on and told him of the little plan which he had been concerting with the corporal, the night before, for him.
"You shall go home directly, LeFevre," said my uncle Toby, "to my house, and we'll send for a doctor to see what's the matter, and we'll have an apothecary, and the corporal shall be your nurse and I'll be your servant, LeFevre."
There was a frankness in my Uncle Toby, not the effect of familiarity, but the cause of it, which let you at once into his soul and showed you the goodness of his nature; to this, there was something in his looks, and voice, and manner superadded, which eternally beckoned to the unfortunate to come and take shelter under him; so that before my uncle Toby had half finished the kind offers he was making to the father, had the son insensibly pressed up close to his knees, and had taken hold of the breast of his coat and was pulling it toward him. The blood and spirits of LeFevre, which were waxing cold and slow within him, and were retreating to their last citadel, the heart, rallied back, the film forsook his eyes for a moment, and he looked up wishfully in my uncle Toby's face, then cast a look upon his boy, and that ligament, fine as it was, was never broken.
Nature instantly ebbed again; the film returned to its place; the pulse fluttered—stopped—went on—throbbed—stopped again—moved—stopped—shall I go on? No.
* * * * *
(BORN 1750—DIED 1831.)
THE NAPOLEON OF MERCHANTS—HIS LIFE SUCCESSFUL, AND YET A FAILURE.
Imagine the figure of an old man, low in stature, squarely built, clumsily dressed, and standing on large feet. To this uncouth form, add a repulsive face, wrinkled, cold, colorless, and stony, with one eye dull and the other blind—a "wall-eye." His expression is that of a man wrapped in the mystery of his own hidden thoughts. He looks—
"Like monumental bronze, unchanged his look— A soul which pity never touched or shook— Trained, from his lowly cradle to his bier, The fierce extremes of good and ill to brook Unchanging, fearing but the charge of fear— A stoic of the mart, a man without a tear."
Such a man was Stephen Girard, one of the most distinguished merchants in the annals of commerce, and the founder of the celebrated Girard College in Philadelphia. Let us briefly trace his history and observe his character.
Girard was a Frenchman by birth, born in the environs of Bordeaux, in May, 1750, of obscure parents. His early instruction was very limited; and, being deformed by a wall-eye, he was an object of ridicule to the companions of his boyhood. This treatment, as is supposed by his biographer, soured his temper, made him shrink from society, and led him to live among his own thoughts rather than in mental communion with his fellows.
The precise cause of his leaving his native hearth-stone is unknown. The fact is certain that he did leave it, when only ten or twelve years old, and sailed, a poor cabin-boy, to the West Indies. This was his starting-point in life. Never had any boy a smaller capital on which to build his fortune. He went out from his unhappy home, ignorant, poor, unfriended, and unknown. That from such a cheerless beginning he should rise to the rank of a merchant prince must be accounted one of the marvels of human history.
His first step was to gain the confidence of his superiors, not so much by affability and courtesy—for of these social virtues he was never possessed—as by steady good conduct, fidelity to his employers, temperance, and studied effort to do his humble duties well. Whatsoever his hands found to do he did with his might. As a consequence, we find him, in a few years, in high favor with a Captain Randall, of New York, who always spoke of him as "my Stephen," and who promoted him from one position to another, until he secured him the command of a small vessel, and sent him on trading voyages between the ports of New York and New Orleans. That the poor cabin-boy should rise, by his own merits, in some six or seven years, to be the commander of a vessel was success such as few lads have ever won with such slender means and few helps as were within reach of young Girard.
When only nineteen, we find him in Philadelphia, driving a thrifty but quiet trade in a little shop in Water Street. Shortly after opening this store, his fancy was taken captive by a maiden of sixteen Summers, named Mary, but familiarly called Polly, Lum. She was a shipwright's daughter, a pretty brunette, who was in the habit of going to the neighboring pump, barefooted, "with her rich, glossy, black hair hanging in disheveled curls about her neck." Her modesty pleased him, her beauty charmed him, and, after a few months of rude courtship, he was married to her, in 1770.
His marriage, instead of carrying happiness into the home over which he installed his beautiful bride, only embittered two lives. It was a union of mere fancy on his side, and of self-interest on hers, not of genuine affection. Their dispositions were not congenial. She was ignorant, vulgar, slovenly. He was arbitrary, harsh, rude, imperious, unyielding. How could their lives flow on evenly together? It was impossible. The result was misery to both, and, as we shall see hereafter, the once beautiful Polly Lum ended her days in a mad-house—a sad illustration of the folly of premature, ill-assorted marriages.
Finding little at his fireside to move his heart, Girard gave his whole soul to business, now trading to San Domingo and New Orleans, and then in his store in Water Street. When the Revolutionary War began, it swept his commercial ventures from the ocean, but he, still bent on gain and indifferent as to the means of winning it, then opened a grocery, and engaged in bottling cider and claret. When the British army occupied Philadelphia, he moved this bottling business to Mount Holly, in New Jersey, where he continued until the American flag again floated over Independence Hall.
But times were hard and money scarce, and for awhile Girard added very little to his means. Yet his keen eye was sharply watching for golden opportunities, and his active mind busily thinking how to create or improve them. In 1780, circumstances made trade with New Orleans and San Domingo very profitable. He promptly engaged in it, and in two years doubled his resources.
Peace being restored, Girard, full of faith in the future of his adopted country, leased a block of stores for ten years at a very low rent. The following year, while business still lay stunned by the blows it had received during the war, he obtained a stipulation from his landlord, giving him the right to renew his lease for a second ten years, if he chose to demand it, when the first one should expire. This was an act of judicious foresight. When, at the expiration of the first lease, he visited his landlord, that gentleman, on seeing him enter his counting-room, said:
"Well, Mr. Girard, you have made out so well by your bargain that I suppose you will hardly hold me to the renewal of the lease for ten years more."
"I have come," replied Gerard, with a look of grim satisfaction, "to secure the ten years more. I shall not let you off."
Nor did he. And the great profits he derived from that fortunate lease greatly broadened the foundation of his subsequently colossal fortune.
As yet, however, his wealth was very moderate, for in 1790, at the dissolution of a partnership he had formed with his brother who had come to America, his own share of the business amounted to only thirty thousand dollars. And yet, forty years later, he died leaving a fortune of ten millions.
It is sad; but may be profitable to know, that his happiness did not increase with his possessions. While his balance-sheets recorded increasing assets, his hearth-stone echoed louder and wilder echoes of discordant voices. He was jealous, arbitrary, and passionate; his unfortunate wife was resentful, fiery, and finally so furious that, in 1790, she was admitted as a maniac to an insane hospital, which she never left until she was carried to her grave, unwept and unregretted, twenty-five years after. Their only child had gone to an early grave. Girard's nature must have been strangely perverted if he counted, as he seems to have done, the pleasure of making money a compensation for the absence of true womanly love from his cheerless fireside. His heart, no doubt, was as unsentimental as the gold he loved to hoard.
The terrible retribution which about this time overtook the slave-holders of St. Domingo, when their slaves threw off their oppressive yoke, added considerably to his rising fortunes. He happened to have two vessels in that port when the tocsin of insurrection rang out its fearful notes. Frantic with apprehension, many planters rushed with their costliest treasure to these ships, left them in care of their officers, and went back for more. But the blood-stained hand of massacre prevented their return. They and their heirs perished by knife or bullet, and the unclaimed treasure was taken to Philadelphia, to swell the stream of Girard's wealth. He deemed this a lucky accident, no doubt; and smothered his sympathies for the sufferers in the satisfaction he felt over the addition of fifty thousand dollars to his growing estate. It stimulated, if it did not beget, the dream of his life, the passion which possessed his soul, which was to acquire wealth by which his name might be kept before the world forever. "My deeds must be my life. When I am dead my actions must speak for me," he said to an acquaintance one day, and thus gave expression to his plan of life. There was nothing intrinsically noble in it. If the means he finally adopted bore a philanthropic stamp on their face, his motive was purely personal, and therefore low and selfish. What he toiled for was a name that would never die. He was shrewd enough to perceive that this end could be most surely gained by linking it with the philanthropic spirit of the Christianity which he detested. And hence arose his idea of founding Girard College.
Shortly after plucking the golden fruit which fell into his hands from the St. Domingo insurrection Girard enlarged his business by building several splendid ships and entering into the China and India trade. His operations in this line were managed with a spirit that indicated a true mercantile genius, and contributed greatly to the enlargement of his fortune.
He made these ships the visible expressions of his thoughts on religion and philosophy by naming them, after his favorite authors, the Montesquieu, the Helvetius, the Voltaire, and the Rousseau. He thus defiantly assured the world that he was not only a skeptic, but that he also gloried in that by no means creditable fact.
Girard's life was filled with enigmas. He really loved no living soul. He had no sympathies. He would not part with his money to save agent, servant, neighbor, or relation from death. Nevertheless, when the yellow fever spread dismay, desolation, and death throughout Philadelphia, in 1793, sweeping one-sixth of its population into the grave in about sixty days, he devoted himself to nursing the sick in the hospital with a self-sacrificing zeal which knew no bounds, and which excited universal admiration and praise. His biographer accounts for this conduct, repeated on two subsequent visitations of that terrible fever, by supposing that he was naturally benevolent, but that his early trials had sealed up the fountains of his human feeling. A great public catastrophe broke the seal, the suppressed fountain flowed until the day of terror passed, and then with resolute will he resealed the fountain, and became a cold-hearted, selfish man again.
His selfish disregard for the claims of his dependents was shown, one day, when one of his most successful captains, who had risen from the humble position of apprentice to the command of a fine ship, asked to be transferred to another ship. Girard made him no reply, but, turning to his desk, said to his chief clerk:
"Roberjot, make out Captain Galigar's account immediately."
When this order was obeyed and the account settled, he coolly said to the faithful officer:
"You are discharged, sir. I do not make the voyage for my captains, but for myself."
There was no appeal to be made from this unjust, arbitrary decision, and the man who had served him faithfully seventeen years left his counting-room to seek another employer.
Discourtesy was also a characteristic of this unlovely and unloving man. He never considered men's feelings, nor sought to give pleasure to others by means of the small courtesies of life. He had a farm in the suburbs of the city, and a garden at the back of his town residence. In both he cultivated beautiful flowers and rare fruits; but never, either to visitors or neighbors, did he offer gifts of either. Rich though he was, he sent the surplus to market. He once told a visitor he might glean strawberries from a bed which had been pretty thoroughly picked over. Returning from the lower part of the garden, he found the gentleman picking berries from a full bed. With a look of astonishment, and a voice of half-suppressed anger, he pointed to the exhausted, bed and said:
"I gave you permission only to eat from that bed."
Singular meanness! Yet, notwithstanding this narrow disposition, which ran like veins abnormally distended over nearly all his habits of life, he could, and did at times, do liberal things. But even in such things he was capricious and eccentric; as when a highly esteemed Quaker, named Coates, asked him one day to make a donation to the Pennsylvania Hospital. He replied:
"Call on me to-morrow morning, Mr. Coates, and if you find me on a right footing, I will do something."
Mr. Coates called as requested, and found Girard at breakfast.
"Draw up and eat," said Girard.
Coates did so quite readily. The repast ended, he said, "Now we will proceed to business, Stephen."
"Well, what have you come for, Samuel?"
"Any thing thee pleases, Stephen," rejoined the Quaker.
Girard filled out and signed a check for two hundred dollars. Coates took it, and, without noting how much was the amount, put it in his pocket-book.
"What, you no look at the check I gave you!" exclaimed the merchant.
"No, beggars must not be choosers."
"Hand me back the check I gave you," demanded Girard.
"No, no, Stephen; a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," responded Coates.
"By George," exclaimed Girard, "you have caught me on the right footing."
He then drew a check for five hundred dollars, which he laid before the Quaker, saying: "Will you now look at it, Samuel!"
"Well, to please thee, Stephen, I will."
He did so, and then, at Girard's request, returned the first and went away triumphantly with the second check.
Skeptic though he was, Girard sometimes gave money to build churches, not because they were churches, but because, as buildings, they contributed to the improvement of the city. To a brother merchant, who solicited aid toward building a Methodist church, he once presented a check for five hundred dollars, saying:
"I approve of your motives, and, as the erection of such a building will tend to improve that quarter of the city, I am willing to assist in the furtherance of your object."
It happened that the church to which he thus contributed was subsequently sold to the Episcopalians, who proceeded to convert it into a Gothic structure at a very considerable outlay. They also waited on Girard soliciting a contribution. He handed them a check for five hundred dollars. The gentlemen solicitors looked blank, and intimated that he had made the mistake of omitting a cipher. He had given the "poor Methodists" that sum they pleaded; he surely must have intended to make his present gift five thousand. With this remark they handed back the check, requesting him to add the desired cipher.
"Ah, gentlemen, what you say? I have made one mistake? Let me see; I believe not; but if you say so I must correct it."
Thus saying, he took up the check, tore it to pieces, and added: "I will not contribute one cent. Your society is wealthy. The Methodists are poor, but I make no distinction. Yet I can not please you.... I have nothing to give for your magnificent church."
But, with all his offensive peculiarities, Girard continued to increase his wealth. His ships spread their sails on every sea and earned money for him in every great commercial port. In 1812 he founded the old Girard Bank, and added the rich profits of banking to the immense gains of his vast mercantile transactions. This new enterprise greatly enlarged the sphere of his influence, especially as in matters pertaining to the financial interests of the country and of the city of Philadelphia he manifested a degree of public spirit which contrasted marvelously with his narrowness, meanness, and even inhumanity, in dealing with individual and private interests. He was certainly a patriotic man. Nevertheless, as his biographer demonstrates, he always contrived to make his patriotism tributary to the increase of his immense wealth. His magnificent purchases of United States securities in times of pecuniary disaster, though they contributed immensely to the credit of the government, were not wholly patriotic. They were, to his far-seeing mind, investments which were sure to pay. And he knew also that the very magnitude of his purchases would, by strengthening public confidence, insure the profitable returns he sought. Still, there is no room for doubting the sincerity of his attachment to the country of his adoption.
This fortunate accumulator of millions took very little from his hoards for the promotion of his personal ease and physical enjoyments. He lived in a plain mansion, simply furnished, and standing in the midst of warehouses, where the din of business, the rolling of heavy wheels, and the city's noisiest roar, constantly filled his ears. His table was plentifully but not luxuriously supplied. As he grew old it was extremely simple. He gave no parties, invited none to share his hospitality, except now and then an individual from whom he had reason for believing he could extract information which would be useful to him. He worked incessantly at his business, rising at three or four o'clock and toiling until after midnight. His keen eye inspected every department of his complicated business, from the discounting of a note to the building of a ship or the erection of a building. His only recreation was his garden, his farm at Passyunk, or the training of his birds. His life was coined into work. Its only real pleasure was derived from the accumulation of the money which was to make his name immortal.
In 1830 the sight of his eye grew so dim that it was both difficult and dangerous for him to grope his way along the familiar streets where he transacted business. But so obstinately self-reliant was he that he refused the aid of an attendant. He paid dearly for this obstinacy; for, one day as he was going home from his bank, he was knocked down by a wagon on a street-crossing. A gentleman, seeing him fall, rushed to his assistance. But before he could reach him the plucky old merchant was on his feet shouting, "Stop that fellow! stop that fellow!"
He was badly hurt. Nevertheless, he persisted in walking home. When his physician came his face was found to be seriously wounded. His right ear was almost entirely cut off. His eye was entirely closed. His entire system had received a violent shock, from which it never recovered. His wound healed, but from that time his body began to waste, his face grew thin, and his natural force began to abate. His strength was sadly impaired, and when, in December, 1831, he was attacked by a prevailing influenza, his worn-out system succumbed. The disease touched his powerful brain. He became first insane and then insensible, until, on the 26th of December, 1831, this old man of eighty-two rose from his bed, walked across his chamber, returned almost immediately to his bed, and then, placing his hand upon his burning head, exclaimed:
"How violent is this disorder! How very extraordinary it is!"
After this he lapsed into an unconscious condition, and while in this state, his naked soul passed into the presence-chamber of that Infinite One whose worship it had neglected, and whose existence it had boldly denied.
Thus ended that busy life, which began in poverty, and which had yielded its possessor a fortune of ten millions of dollars. Surely, if wealth and the power it wields be the real crown of life, Stephen Girard must be accorded high rank among the mighty men who win magnificent victories over the adverse circumstances of an obscure birth. He sought riches, not as a miser who gloats with low delight over his glittering gold, but as a man ambitious to make his name imperishable. His ambition was satisfied. His ten millions, invested as directed in his will, which is itself a marvel of worldly wisdom, is accomplishing his life-long desire. So far as human foresight can perceive, Girard College will keep the name of this wonderful man before the eyes of men through the coming ages.
Nevertheless, we count this victor over the mighty obstacles which stand between a penniless cabin-boy and the ownership of millions a vanquished man. Bringing his life into the "light of the glory of God which shines from the face of Jesus Christ," we are compelled to pronounce it a miserable failure. We do not find either Christian faith or Christian morality in it. As to faith, he had none; for he was an atheist, and gloried in his disbelief of all revealed truth. As to morality, his biographer informs us that he was an unchaste, profane, passionate, arbitrary, ungenerous, unloving man. His apparent philanthropy was so veined with selfishness that it was rarely ever exhibited except under conditions which secured publicity. And even the college which perpetuates his name proclaims, by its prohibition of religious instruction, his hatred of "the only name given under heaven among men whereby we can be saved." It is true that his will enjoins instruction in morals; but it is heathen, not Christian, morality that he intended; and, if the letter and spirit of his remarkable will were strictly carried out, the graduates of Girard College would leave its walls as ill instructed in the principles of genuine morality as were the disciples of Socrates or the followers of Confucius. The only roots on which pure morals can grow are faith in our heavenly Father and his divine Son, and love which is born of that precious faith. That faith is forbidden to be taught, and its divinely ordained teachers are prohibited entrance within the walls his unsanctified ambition built. Happily for the orphan boys who congregate there, the spirit of that antichristian will can not be executed in this Christian country. Its letter is no doubt respected; but the ethics of the institution are not those of Voltaire, Rousseau, or Confucius, but of Jesus, whose life is the only "light of men." Hence, while his college may perpetuate his name, it will never cause mankind to love his character, nor to hope that he is one of that exalted host which ascended to heaven through much tribulation, and after washing their robes in the blood of the Lamb.—DR. WISE, in "Victors Vanquished," Cranston & Stowe, Cincinnati.
* * * * *
PLEASURE AFTER PAIN—PAIN AFTER PLEASURE.
Our illusions commence in the cradle, and end only in the grave. We have all great expectations. Our ducks are ever to be geese, our geese swans; and we can not bear the truth when it comes upon us. Hence our disappointments; hence Solomon cried out that all was vanity, that he had tried every thing, each pleasure, each beauty, and found it very empty. People, he writes, should be taught by my example; they can not go beyond me—"What can he do that comes after the king?"
It is very doubtful whether, to an untried or a young man, the warnings of Solomon, or the outpourings of that griefful prophet whose name now passes for a lamentation, have done much good. Hope balances caution, and "springs eternal in the human breast." The old man fails, but the young constantly fancies he shall succeed. "Solomon," he cries, "did not know every thing;" but in a few years his own disappointments tell him how true the king's words are, and he cherishes the experience he has bought. But experience does not serve him in every case; it has been said that it is simply like the stern-lights of a ship, which lighten the path she has passed over, but not that which she is about to traverse. To know one's self is the hardest lesson we can learn. Few of us ever realize our true position; few see that they are like Bunyan's hero in the midst of Vanity Fair, and that all about them are snares, illusions, painted shows, real troubles, and true miseries, many trials and few enjoyments.