Life And Letters Of Faraday
( Originally Published 1905 )
UNDERTAKEN and executed in a reverent and loving spirit, the work of Dr. Bence Jones makes Faraday the virtual writer of his own life. Every-body now knows the story of the philosopher's birth; that his father was a smith; that he was born at Newington Butts in 1791; that he ran along the London pavements, a bright-eyed errand boy, with a load of brown curls upon his head and a packet of newspapers under his arm; that the lad's master was a bookseller and bookbinder-a kindly man, who became attached to the little fellow, and in due time made him his apprentice without fee; that during his apprenticeship he found his appetite for knowledge provoked and strengthened by the books he stitched and covered. Thus he grew in wisdom and stature to his year of legal manhood, when he appears in the volumes before us as a writer of letters, which reveal his occupation, acquirements, and tone of mind. His correspondent was Mr. Abbott, a member of the Society of Friends, who, with a forecast of his correspondent's greatness, preserved his letters and produced them at the proper time.
In later years Faraday always carried in his pocket a blank card, on which he jotted down in pencil his thoughts and memoranda. He made his notes in the laboratory, in the theatre, and in the streets. This distrust of his memory reveals itself in his first letter to Abbott. To a proposition that no new inquiry should be started between them before the old one had been exhaustively discussed, Faraday objects. "Your notion," he says, "I can hardly allow, for the following reason: ideas and thoughts spring up in my mind which are irrevocably lost for want of noting at the time." Gentle as he seemed, he wished to have his own way, and he had it throughout his life. Differences of opinion sometimes arose between the two friends, and then they resolutely faced each other. "I accept your offer to fight it out with joy, and shall in the battle of experience cause not pain, but, I hope, pleasure." Faraday notes his own impetuosity, and incessantly checks it. There is at times something almost mechanical in his self-restraint. In another nature it would have hardened into mere "correctness" of conduct; but his overflowing affections prevented this in his case. The habit of self-control became a second nature to him at last, and lent serenity to his later years.
In October, 1812, he was engaged by a Mr. De la Roche as a journeyman bookbinder; but the situation did not suit him. His master appears to have been an austere and passionate man, and Faraday was to the last degree sensitive. All his life he continued so. He suffered at times from dejection; and a certain grimness, too, pervaded his moods. "At present," he writes to Abbott, "I am as serious as you can be, and would not scruple to speak a truth to any human being, whatever repugnance it might give rise to. Being in this state of mind, I should have refrained from writing to you, did I not conceive from the general tenor of your letters that your mind is, at proper times, occupied upon serious subjects to the exclusion of those that are frivolous." Plainly he had fallen into that stern Puritan mood, which not only crucifies the affections and lusts of him who harbors it, but is often a cause of disturbed digestion to his friends.
About three months after his engagement with De la Roche, Faraday quitted him and bookbinding together. He had heard Davy, copied his lectures, and written to him, entreating to be released from Trade, which he hated, and enabled to pursue Science. Davy recognized the merit of his correspondent, kept his eye upon him, and, when occasion offered, drove to his door and sent in a letter, offering him the post of assistant in the laboratory of the Royal Institution. He was engaged March 1, 1813, and on the 8th we find him extracting the sugar from beet-root. He joined the City Philosophical Society which had been founded by Mr. Tatum in 1808. "The discipline was very sturdy, the remarks very plain, and the results most valuable." Faraday derived great profit from this little association. In the laboratory he had a discipline sturdier still. Both Davy and himself were at this time frequently cut and bruised by explosions of chloride of nitrogen. One explosion was so rapid "as to blow my hand open, tear away a part of one nail, and make my fingers so sore that I cannot use them easily." In an-other experiment "the tube and receiver were blown to pieces, I got a cut on the head, and Sir Humphry a bruise on his hand." And again speaking of the same substance, he says, "when put in the pump and exhausted, it stood for a moment, and then exploded with a fearful noise. Both Sir H. and I had masks on, but I escaped this time the best. Sir H. had his face cut in two places about the chin, and a violent blow on the forehead struck through a considerable thickness of silk and leather." It was this same substance that blew out the eye of Dulong.
Over and over again, even at this early date, we can discern the quality which, compounded with his rare intellectual power, made Faraday a great experimental philosopher. This was his desire to see facts, and not to rest contented with the descriptions of them. He frequently pits the eye against the ear, and affirms the enormous superiority of the organ of vision. Late in life I have. heard him say that he could never fully understand an experiment until he had seen it. But he did not confine himself to experiment. He aspired to be a teacher, and reflected and wrote upon the method of scientific exposition. "A lecturer," he observes, "should appear easy and collected, undaunted and unconcerned:" still "his whole behavior should evince respect for his audience." These recommendations were afterward, in great part, embodied by himself. I doubt his "unconcern," but his fearlessness was often manifested. It used to rise within him as a wave, which carried both him and his audience along with it. On rare occasions also, when he felt himself and his subject hopelessly unintelligible, he suddenly evoked a certain recklessness of thought, and, without halting to extricate his bewildered followers, he would dash alone through the jungle into which he had unwittingly led them; thus saving them from ennui by the exhibition of a vigor which, for the time being, they could neither share nor comprehend.
In October, 1813, he quitted England with Sir Humphry and Lady Davy. During his absence he kept a journal, from which copious and interesting extracts have been made by Dr. Bence Jones. Davy was considerate, preferring at times to be his own servant rather than impose on Faraday duties which he disliked. But Lady Davy was the reverse. She treated him as an underling; he chafed under the treatment, and was often on the point of returning home. They halted at Geneva. De la Rive, the elder, had known Davy in 1799, and, by his writings in the "Bibliotheque Britannique," had been the first to make the English chemist's labors known abroad. He welcomed Davy to his country residence in 1814. Both were sportsmen, and they often went out shooting together.
On these occasions Faraday charged Davy's gun while De la Rive charged his own. Once the Genevese philosopher found himself by the side of Faraday, and, in his frank and genial way, entered into conversation with the young man. It was evident that a person possessing such a charm of manner and such high intelligence could be no mere servant. On inquiry De la Rive was some-what shocked to find that the soi-disant domestique was really preparateur in the laboratory of the Royal Institution; and he immediately proposed that Faraday thence-forth should join the masters instead of the servants at their meals. To this Davy, probably out of weak deference to his wife, objected; but an arrangement was come to that Faraday thenceforward should have his food in his own room. Rumor states that a dinner in honor of Faraday was given by De la Rive. This is a delusion; there was no such banquet; but Faraday never forgot the kindness of the. friend who saw his merit when he was a mere garcon de laboratoire.
He returned, in 1815, to the Royal Institution. Here he helped Davy for years; he worked also for himself, and lectured frequently at the City Philosophical Society. He took lessons in elocution, happily without damage to his natural force, earnestness, and grace of delivery. He was never pledged to theory, and he changed in opinion as knowledge advanced. With him life was growth. In those early lectures we hear him say, "In knowledge, that man only is to be contemned and despised who is not in a state of transition." And again: "Nothing is more difficult and requires more caution than philosophical deduction, nor is there anything more adverse to its accuracy than fixity of opinion." Not that he was wafted about by every wind of doctrine; but that he united flexibility with his strength. In striking contrast with this intellectual expansiveness was his fixity in religion, but this is a subject which cannot be discussed here.
Of all the letters published in these volumes none possess a greater charm than those of Faraday to his wife. Here, as Dr. Bence Jones truly remarks, "he laid open all his mind and the whole of his character, and what can be made known can scarcely fail to charm every one by its loveliness, its truthfulness, and its earnestness." Abbott and he sometimes swerved into word-play about love; but up to 1820, or thereabout, the passion was potential merely. Faraday's journal, indeed, contains entries which show that he took pleasure in the assertion of his con-tempt for love; but these very entries became links in his destiny. It was through them that he became acquainted with one who inspired him with a feeling which only ended with his life. His biographer has given 'us the means of tracing the varying moods which preceded his acceptance. They reveal more than the common alternations of light and gloom; at one moment he wishes that his flesh might melt and that he might become nothing; at another he is intoxicated with hope. The impetuosity of his character was then unchastened by the discipline to which it was subjected in after years. The very strength of his passion proved for a time a bar to its advance, suggesting, as it did, to the conscientious mind of Miss Barnard, doubts of her capability to return it with adequate force. But they met again and again, and at each successive meeting he found his heaven clearer, until at length he was able to say, "Not a moment's alloy of this evening's happiness occurred. Everything was delightful to the last moment of my stay with my companion, be-cause she was so." The turbulence of doubt subsided, and a- calm and elevating confidence took its place. "What can I call myself," he writes to her in a subsequent letter, "to convey most perfectly my affection and love for you? Can I or can truth say more than that for this world I am yours ?" Assuredly he made his profession good, and no fairer light falls upon his character than that which reveals his relations to his wife. Never, I believe, existed a manlier, purer, steadier love. Like a burning diamond, it continued to shed, for six-and-forty years, its white and smokeless glow.
Faraday was married on June 12, 1821; and up to this date Davy appears throughout as his friend. Soon afterward, however, disunion occurred between them, which, while it lasted, must have given Faraday intense pain. It is impossible to doubt the honesty of conviction with which this subject has been treated by Dr. Bence Jones, and there may be facts known to him, but not appearing in these volumes, which justify his opinion that Davy in those days had become jealous of Faraday. This, which is the prevalent belief, is also reproduced in an excellent article in the March number of "Fraser's Magazine." But the best analysis I can make of the data fails to present Davy in this light to me. The facts, as I regard them, are briefly these.
In 1820, Oersted of Copenhagen made the celebrated discovery which connects electricity with magnetism, and immediately afterward the acute mind of Wollaston perceived that a wire carrying a current ought to rotate round its own axis under the influence of a magnetic pole. -In 1821 he tried, but failed, to realize this result in the laboratory of the Royal Institution. Faraday was not present at the moment, but he came in immediately afterward and heard the conversation of Wollaston and Davy about the experiment. He had also heard a rumor of a wager that Dr. Wollaston would eventually succeed.
This was in April. In the autumn of the same year Faraday wrote a history of electro-magnetism, and repeated for himself the experiments which he described. It was while thus instructing himself that he succeeded in causing a wire, carrying an electric current, to rotate round a magnetic pole. This was not the result sought by Wollaston, but it was closely related to that result.
The strong tendency of Faraday's mind to look upon the reciprocal actions of natural forces gave birth to his greatest discoveries; and we, who know this, should be justified in concluding that, even had Wollaston not pre-ceded him, the result would have been the same. But in judging Davy we ought to transport ourselves to his time, and carefully exclude from our thoughts and feelings that noble subsequent life, which would render simply impossible the ascription to Faraday of anything unfair. It would be unjust to Davy to put our knowledge in the place of his, or to credit him with data which he could not have possessed. Rumor and fact had connected the name of Wollaston with these supposed interactions between magnets and currents. When, therefore, Faraday in October published his successful experiment, without any allusion to Wollaston, general, though really ungrounded, criticism followed. I say ungrounded because, first, Faraday's experiment was not that of Wollaston, and secondly, Faraday, before he published it, had actually called upon Wollaston, and not finding him at home, did not feel himself authorized to mention his name.
In December, Faraday published a second paper on the same subject, from which, through a misapprehension, the name of Wollaston was also omitted. Warburton and others thereupon affirmed that Wollaston's ideas had been appropriated without acknowledgment, and it is plain that Wollaston himself, though cautious in his utterance, was also hurt. Censure grew till it became intolerable. "I hear," writes Faraday to his friend Stodart, "every day more and more of these sounds, which, though only whispers to me, are, I suspect, spoken aloud among scientific men." He might have written explanations and defences, but he went straighter to the point. He wished to see the principals face to face—to plead his cause before them personally. There was a certain vehemence in his desire to do this. He saw Wollaston, he saw Davy, he saw Warburton; and I am inclined to think that it was the irresistible candor and truth of character which these viva voce defences revealed, as much as the defences them-selves, that disarmed resentment at the time.
As regards Davy, another cause of dissension arose in 1823. In the spring of that year Faraday analyzed the hydrate of chlorine, a substance once believed to be the element chlorine, but proved by Davy to be a compound of that element and water. The analysis was looked over by Davy, who then and there suggested to Faraday to heat the hydrate in a closed glass tube. This was done, the substance was decomposed, and one of the products of decomposition was proved by Faraday to be chlorine liquefied by its own pressure. On the day of its discovery he ,communicated this result to Dr. Paris. Davy, on being informed of it, instantly liquefied another gas in the same way. Having struck thus into Faraday's inquiry, ought he not to have left the matter in Faraday's hands? I think he ought. But, considering his relation to both Faraday and the hydrate of chlorine, Davy, I submit, may be excused for thinking differently. A father is not al-ways wise enough to see that his son has ceased to be a boy, and estrangement on this account is not rare; nor was Davy wise enough to discern that Faraday had passed the mere assistant stage, and become a discoverer. It is now hard to avoid magnifying this error. But had Faraday died or ceased to work at this time, or had his subsequent life been devoted to money-getting, instead of to research, would anybody now dream of ascribing jealousy to Davy? Assuredly not. Why should he be jealous? His reputation at this time was almost without a parallel: his glory was without a cloud. He had added to his other discoveries that of Faraday, and after having been his teacher for seven years, his language to him was this: "It gives me great pleasure to hear that you are comfortable at the Royal Institution, and I trust that you will not only do something good and honorable for yourself, but also for science." This is not the language of jealousy, potential or actual. But the chlorine business introduced irritation and anger, to which, and not to any ignobler motive, Davy's opposition to the. election of Faraday to the Royal Society is, I am persuaded, to be ascribed.
These matters are touched upon with perfect candor and becoming consideration in the volumes of Dr. Bence Jones: but in "society" they are not always so handled. Here a name of noble intellectual associations is surrounded by injurious rumors which I would willingly scatter forever. The pupil's magnitude, and the splendor of his position, are too great and absolute to need as a foil the humiliation of his master. Brothers in intellect, Davy and Faraday, however, could never have become brothers in feeling; their characters were too unlike. Davy loved the pomp and circumstance of fame; Faraday the inner consciousness that he had fairly won renown. They were both proud men. But with Davy pride projected itself into the outer world; while with Faraday it became a steadying and dignifying inward force. In one great particular they agreed. Each of them could have turned his science to immense commercial profit, but neither of them did so. The noble excitement of research, and the delight of discovery, constituted their reward. I commend them to the reverence which great gifts greatly exercised ought to inspire. They were both ours; and through the coming centuries England will be able to point with just pride to the possession of such men.
The first volume of the "Life and Letters" reveals to us the youth who was to be father to the man. Skilful, aspiring, resolute, he grew steadily in knowledge and in power. Consciously or unconsciously, the relation of Action to Reaction was ever present to Faraday's mind. It had been fostered by his discovery of Magnetic Rotations, and it planted in him more daring ideas of a similar kind. Magnetism he knew could be evoked by electricity, and he thought that electricity, in its turn, ought to be capable of evolution by magnetism. On August 29, 1831, his experiments on this subject began. He had been fortified by previous trials, which, though failures, had be-gotten instincts directing him toward the truth. He, like every strong worker, might at times miss the outward object, but he always gained the inner light, education, and expansion. Of this Faraday's life was a constant illustration. By November he had discovered and colligated a multitude of the most wonderful and unexpected phenomena. He had generated currents by currents; currents by magnets, permanent and transitory; and he afterward generated currents by the earth itself. Arago's "Magnetism of Rotation," which had for years offered itself as a challenge to the best scientific intellects of Europe, now fell into his hands. It proved to be a beautiful, but still special, illustration of the great principle of Magneto-electric Induction. Nothing equal to this latter, in the way of pure experimental inquiry, had previously been achieved.
Electricities from various sources were next examined, and their differences and resemblances revealed. He thus assured himself of their substantial identity. He then took up Conduction, and gave many striking illustrations of the influence of Fusion on Conducting Power. Renouncing professional work, from which at this time he might have derived an income of many thousands a year, he poured his whole momentum into his researches. He was long entangled in Electro-chemistry. The light of law was for a time obscured by the thick umbrage of novel facts; but he finally emerged from his researches with the great principle of Definite Electro-chemical Decomposition in his hands. If his discovery of Magneto-electricity may be ranked with that of the pile by Volta, this new discovery may almost stand beside that of Definite Combining Proportions in Chemistry. He passed on to Static Electricity—its Conduction, Induction, and Mode of Propagation. He discovered and illustrated the principle of Inductive Capacity; and, turning to theory, he asked himself how electrical attractions and repulsions are transmitted. Are they, like gravity, actions at a distance, or do they require a medium ? If the former, then, like gravity, they will act in straight lines; if the latter, then, like sound or light, they may turn a corner. Faraday held-and his views are gaining ground—that his experiments proved the fact of curvilinear propagation, and hence the operation of a medium. Others denied this; but none can deny the profound and philosophic character of his leading thought.' The first volume of the Researches contains all the papers, here referred to.
Faraday had heard it stated that henceforth physical discoveries would be made solely by the aid of mathematics; that we had our data, and needed only to work deductively. Statements of a similar character crop out from time to time in our day. They arise from an imperfect acquaintance with the nature, present condition, and prospective vastness of the field of physical inquiry. The tendency of natural science doubtless is to bring all physical phenomena under the dominion of mechanical laws; to give them, in other words, mathematical expression. But our approach to this result is asymptotic; and for ages to come—possibly for all the ages of the human race—Nature will find room for both the philosophical experimenter and the mathematician. Faraday entered his protest against the foregoing statement by labelling his investigations "Experimental Researches in Electricity." They were completed in 1854, and three volumes of them have been published. For the sake of reference, he numbered every paragraph, the last number being 3,362. In 1859 he collected and published a fourth volume of papers, under the title, "Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics." Thus did this apostle of experiment illustrate its power and magnify his office.
The second volume of the Researches embraces memoirs on the Electricity of the Gymnotus; on the Source of Power in the Voltaic Pile; on the Electricity evolved by the Friction of Water and Steam, in which the phenomena and principles of Sir William Armstrong's Hydro-electric machine are described and developed; a paper on Magnetic Rotations, and Faraday's letters in relation to the controversy it aroused. The contribution of most permanent value here is that on the Source of Power in the Voltaic Pile. By it the Contact Theory, pure and simple, was totally overthrown, and the necessity of chemical action to the maintenance of the current demonstrated.
The third volume of the Researches opens with a memoir entitled "The Magnetization of Light," and the "Illumination of Magnetic Lines of Force." It is difficult even now to affix a definite meaning to this title; but the discovery of the rotation of the plane of polarization, which it announced, seems pregnant with great results. The writings of William Thomson on the theoretic aspects of the discovery; the excellent electro-dynamic measurements of Wilhelm Weber, which are models of experimental completeness and skill; Weber's labors in conjunction with his lamented friend Kohlrausch—above all, the researches of Clerk Maxwell on the Electro-magnetic Theory of Light—point to that wonderful and mysterious medium, which is the vehicle of light and radiant heat, as the probable basis also of magnetic and electric phenomena. The hope of such a connection was first raised by the discovery here referred to.' Faraday himself seemed to cling with particular affection to this discovery. He felt that there was more in it than he was able to unfold. He predicted that it would grow in meaning with the growth of science. This it has done; this it is doing now. Its right interpretation will probably mark an epoch in scientific history.
Rapidly following it is the discovery 9f Diamagnetism, or the repulsion of matter by a magnet. Brugmans had shown that bismuth repelled a magnetic needle. Here he stopped. Le Bailliff proved that antimony did the same. Here he stopped. Seebeck, Becquerel, and others, also touched the discovery. These fragmentary gleams excited
momentary curiosity and were almost forgotten, when Faraday independently alighted on the same facts; and instead. of stopping, made them the inlets to a new and vast region of research. The value of a discovery is to be measured by the intellectual action it calls forth; and it was Faraday's good fortune to strike such lodes of scientific truth as give occupation to some of the best intellects of our age.
The salient quality of Faraday's scientific character reveals itself from beginning to end of these volumes; a union of ardor and patience—the one prompting the at-tack, the other holding him on to it, till defeat was final or victory assured. Certainty in one sense or the other was necessary to his peace of mind. The right method of investigation is perhaps incommunicable; it depends on the individual rather than on the system, and the mark is missed when Faraday's researches are pointed to as merely illustrative of the power of the inductive philosophy. The brain may be filled with that philosophy; but without the energy and insight which this man possessed, and which with him were personal and distinctive, we should never rise to the level of his achievements. His power is that of individual genius, rather than of philosophic method; the energy of a strong soul expressing itself after its own fashion, and acknowledging no mediator between it and Nature.
The second volume of the "Life and Letters," like the first, is a historic treasury as' regards Faraday's work and character, and his scientific and social relations. It contains letters from Humboldt, Herschel, Hachette, De la Rive, Dumas, Liebig, Melloni, Becquerel, Oersted, Plucker, Du Bois-Reymond, Lord Melbourne, Prince Louis Napoleon, and many other distinguished men. I notice, with particular pleasure, a letter from Sir John Herschel, in reply to a sealed packet addressed to him by Faraday, but which he had permission to open if he pleased. The packet referred to one of the many unfulfilled hopes which spring up in the minds of fertile investigators:
`Go on and prosper, `from strength to strength,' like a victor marching with assured step to further conquests; and be certain that no voice will join more heartily in the peans that already begin to rise, and will speedily swell into a shout of triumph, astounding even to your-self, than that of J. F. W. Herschel."
Faraday's behavior to Melloni, in 1835, merits a word of notice. The young man was a political exile in Paris. He had newly fashioned and applied the thermo-electric pile, and had obtained with it results of the greatest importance. But they were not appreciated. With the sickness of disappointed hope, Melloni waited for the report of the Commissioners, appointed by the, Academy of Sciences to examine the Primier. At length he published his researches in the "Annales de Chimie.'' They thus fell into the hands of Faraday, who, discerning at once their extraordinary merit, obtained for their author the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society. A sum of money always accompanies this medal; and the pecuniary help was, at this time, even more essential than the mark of honor to the young refugee. Melloni's gratitude was boundless:
"-Et vous, monsieur," he writes to Faraday, "qui appartenez a une societe laquelle je n'ay.a s rien offert, vous qui me connaissiez peine de nom; vous n'avez pas demande si j'avais des ennemis faibles ou puissants, ni calcule quel en etait le nombre; mais vows avez parr pour l'opprime &ranger, pour celui qui n'avait pas :le moindre droit a tant de bienveillance, et vos paroles ont ete aceueillies favorablement par des collegues consciencieuxl 3e reconnais bien la des hommes dignes de leur noble mission, les veritable representants de la science d'un pays libre et genereux."
Within the prescribed limits of this article it would be impossible to give even the slenderest summary of Faraday's correspondence, or to carve from it more than the merest fragments of his character. His letters, written to Lord Melbourne and others in 1836, regarding his pension, illustrate his uncompromising independence. The Prime Minister had offended him, but assuredly the apology demanded and given was complete. I think it certain that, notwithstanding the very full account of this transaction given by Dr. Bence Jones, motives and influences were at work which even now are not entirely revealed. The minister was bitterly attacked, but he bore the censure of the press with great dignity. Faraday, while he disavowed having either directly or indirectly furnished the matter of those attacks, did not publicly exonerate the Premier. The Hon. Caroline Fox had proved herself Faraday's ardent friend, and it was she who had healed the breach between the philosopher and the minister. She manifestly thought that Faraday ought to have come forward in Lord Melbourne's defence, and there is a flavor of resentment in one of her letters to him on the subject. No doubt Faraday had good grounds for his reticence, but they are to me unknown.
In 1841 his health broke down utterly, and he went to Switzerland with his 'wife and brother-in-law. His bodily vigor soon revived, and he accomplished feats of walking respectable even for a trained mountaineer. The published extracts from his Swiss journal contain many beautiful and touching allusions. Amid references to the tints of the Jungfrau, the blue rifts of the glaciers, and the noble Niesen towering over the Lake of Thun, we come upon the charming little scrap which I have else-where quoted: "Clout-nail making goes on here rather considerably, and is a very neat and pretty operation to observe. I love a smith's shop and anything relating to smithery. My father was a smith." This is from his journal; but he is unconsciously speaking to somebody —perhaps to the world.
His description of the Staubbach, Giessbach; and of the scenic effects of sky and mountain, are all fine and sympathetic. But amid it all, and in reference to it all, he tells his sister that "true enjoyments from within, not from without." In those days Agassiz was living under a slab of gneiss on the glacier of the Aar. Faraday met Forbes at the Grimsel, and arranged with him an excursion to the "Hotel des Neuchatelois" ; but indisposition put the project out.
From the Fort of Ham, in 1843, Faraday received a letter addressed to him by Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. He read this letter to me many years ago, and the desire, shown in various ways by the French Emperor, to turn modern science to account, has often reminded me of it since. At the age of thirty-five the prisoner of Ham speaks of "rendering his captivity less sad by studying the great discoveries" which science owes to Faraday; and he asks a question which reveals his cast of thought at the time: "What is the most simple combination to give to a voltaic battery, in order to produce a spark capable of setting fire to powder under water or under ground ?" Should' the necessity arise, the French Emperor will not lack at the outset the best appliances of modern science; while we, I fear, shall have to learn the magnitude of the resources we are now neglecting amid the pangs of actual war.
One turns with renewed pleasure to Faraday's letters to his wife, published in the second volume. Here surely the loving essence of the man appears more distinctly than anywhere else. From the house of Dr. Percy, in Birmingham, he writes thus
"Here—even here—the moment I leave the table, I wish I were with you IN QUIET. Oh, what happiness is ours! My runs into the world in this way only serve to make me esteem that happiness the more."
"We have been to a grand conversazione in the town-hall, and I have now returned to my room to talk with you, as the pleasantest and happiest thing that I can do. Nothing rests me so much as communion with you. I feel it even now as I write, and catch myself saying the words aloud as I write them.''
Take this, moreover, as indicative of his love for Nature:
"After writing, I walk out in the evening hand in hand with my dear wife to enjoy the sunset; for to me who love scenery, of all that I have seen or can see, there is none surpasses that of heaven. A glorious sunset brings with it a thousand thoughts that delight me."
Of the numberless lights thrown upon him by the "Life and Letters," some fall upon his religion.- In a letter to Lady Lovelace, he describes himself as belonging to "a very small and despised sect of Christians, known, if known at all, as Sandemanians, and our hope is founded on the faith that is in Christ." He adds: "I do not think it at all necessary to tie the study of the natural sciences and religion together, and in my intercourse with my fellow-creatures, that which is religious, and that which is philosophical, have ever been two distinct things." He saw clearly the -danger of quitting his moorings, and his science acted indirectly as the safeguard of his faith. For his investigations so filled his mind as to leave no room for sceptical questionings, thus shielding from the assaults of philosophy the creed of his youth. His religion was constitutional and hereditary. It was implied in the eddies of his blood and in the tremors of his brain; and, however its outward and visible form might have changed, Faraday would still have possessed its elemental constituents-awe, reverence, truth, and love.
It is worth inquiring how so profoundly religious a mind, and so great a teacher, would be likely to regard our present discussions on the subject of education. Faraday would be a "secularist" were he now alive. He had no sympathy with those who contemn knowledge unless it be accompanied by dogma. A lecture delivered before the City Philosophical Society in 1818, when he was twenty-six years of age, expresses the views regarding education which he entertained to the end of his life, "First, then," he says, "all theological considerations are banished from the society, and of course from my re-marks; and whatever I may say has no reference to a future state, or to the means which are to be adopted in this world in anticipation of it. Next, I have no intention of substituting anything for religion, but I wish to take that part of human nature which is independent of it. Morality, philosophy, commerce, the various institutions and habits of society, are independent of religion, and may exist either with or without it. They are always the same, and can dwell alike in the breasts of those who, from opinion, are entirely opposed in the set of principles they include in the term religion, or in those who have none.
"To discriminate more closely, if possible, I will observe that we have no right to judge religious opinions; but the human nature of this evening is that part of man which we have a right to judge. And I think it will be found on examination, that this humanity—as it may perhaps be called—will accord with what I have before de-scribed as being in our own hands so improvable and perfectible."
In an old journal I find the following remarks on one of my earliest dinners with Faraday: "At two o'clock he came down for me. He, his niece, and myself, formed the party. `I never give dinners,' he said. `I don't know how to give dinners, and I never dine out. But I should not like my friends to attribute this to a wrong cause. I act thus for the sake of securing time for work, and not through religious motives, as some imagine.' He said grace. I am almost ashamed to call his prayer a `saying of grace.' In the language of Scripture, it might be de-scribed as the petition of a son into whose heart God had sent the Spirit of His Son, and who with absolute trust asked a blessing from his father. We dined on roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and potatoes; drank sherry, talked of research and its requirements, and of his habit of keeping himself free from the distractions of society. He was bright and joyful—boylike, in fact, though he is now sixty-two. His work excites admiration, but contact with him warms and elevates the heart. Here, surely, is a strong man. I love strength; but let me not forget the example of its union with modesty, tenderness, and sweetness, in the character of Faraday."
Faraday's progress in discovery, and the salient points of his character, are well brought out by the wise choice of letters and extracts published in the volumes before us.
I will not call the labors of the biographer final. So great a character will challenge reconstruction. In the coming time some sympathetic spirit, with the requisite strength, knowledge, and solvent power, will, I doubt not, render these materials plastic, give them more perfect organic form, and send through them, with less of interruption, the currents of Faraday's life. "He was too good a man," writes his present biographer, "for me to estimate rightly, and too great a philosopher for me to understand thoroughly." That may be: but the reverent affection to which we owe the discovery, selection, and arrangement of the materials here placed before us is probably a surer guide than mere literary skill. The task of the artist who may wish in future times to reproduce the real though unobtrusive grandeur, the purity, beauty, and childlike simplicity of him whom we have lost, will find his chief treasury already provided for him by Dr. Bence Jones's labor of love.