LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter XI

Contents Vol. I
Prelude 1
Prelude 2
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Contents Vol. II
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
‣ Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Note to Chapter XV
Contents Vol. III
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Note to Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Note to Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Note to Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Index of Persons
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TO attempt the most general view of the condition of manufactures and machinery during the progress of the “Penny Cyclopædia,”—especially bearing in mind the vast changes that would grow out of the removal of the fiscal burthens upon industry, and the gradual development of Free Trade—would be far beyond the scope of these incidental glances at a brighter future. I have touched very lightly upon the subject in the fourth and fifth chapters of this volume. Of the contributors to this department of the “Cyclopædia,” I may mention an old friend who has worked with me during many years upon matters of a cognate character, Mr. George Dodd. His careful observation and his punctual industry made him then, as he still continues to be, one of the most useful contributors to serial works. Furnishing not so much in quantity, but what he did always being of signal value, was Mr. Edward Cowper. As an inventor, Mr. Cowper was to me peculiarly interesting, as being connected with those simplifications of the printing machine which brought it into common use.* He felt that it was his great pride to have rendered what was originally a complicated instrument, one capable of adaptation to the purposes of

* Ante, vol. i. p. 162.

rapid and cheap book-printing, and of producing such illustrated works as the “
Penny Magazine” and the “Penny Cyclopædia.” In an examination before a Committee of the House of Commons, he said: “The ease with which the principles and illustrations of Art might be diffused, I think is so obvious that it is hardly necessary to say a word about it. Here you may see it exemplified in the ‘Penny Magazine.’ Such works as this could not have existed without the printing-machine.” Amongst the leading questions or observations by the Committee was this: “In fact the mechanic and the peasant in the most remote districts of the country, have now an opportunity of seeing tolerably correct outlines of form which they never could behold before?” His answer was, “Exactly; and literally at the price they used to give for a song.” When asked “Is there not, therefore, a greater chance of calling genius into activity?” he answered, “Yes; not merely by these books creating an artist here and there, but by the general elevation of the taste of the public.” Beyond what Mr. Cowper so justly stated with regard to our own country, I may add, that at this period, 1836, the “Penny Magazine” was producing a revolution in popular Art throughout the world. Stereotype casts of its best cuts were supplied by me for the illustration of publications of a similar character, which appeared in eleven different languages and countries. Many interesting considerations are involved in the mere recital of the names of these countries: Germany—France—Holland—Livonia (in Russian and German)—Bohemia (Sclavonic)—Italy—Ionian Islands (modern Greek)— Sweden—Norway—Spanish America—the Brazils.
The entire work was also reprinted in the United States from plates sent from this country. I was not only bound to be grateful to Mr. Cowper for his evidence, but I had long entertained the highest respect for the wide range of his information, and the simplicity of his character. In his latter years he became Professor of Mechanics and Manufacturing Arts at King’s College. His mode of teaching was singularly lucid, never trusting to mere descriptions of machinery, so difficult to understand, but illustrating what he had to say by models constructed with a most minute ingenuity. He did not consider it beneath the dignity of a Professor to superintend daily, and actually to work without assistance, a machine of his invention, at the blacking manufactory of Messrs. Day and Martin, for secretly printing the labels of their bottles in a manner which would preclude imitation. It was long before the Arts that had been effectually used for preventing the forgery of blacking labels, were allowed to interfere with the flourishing manufacture of forged bank notes.

Dr. Andrew Ure was a contributor to this department of the “Cyclopædia.” In 1835, I published his very interesting volume on “The Philosophy of Manufactures;” and in 1836, his larger work on “The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain compared with other Countries.” He was then analytical chemist to the Board of Customs. There were many special articles on Manufactures and Machinery, by men conversant with particular branches. Amongst various names, there is one which stands out prominent, although processes and mechanical principles were not exactly in his line. Edwin Norris has won
his distinguished position and his high reputation by his labours as a philological and ethnological writer. In the “
Companion to the Almanac” for 1830, he furnished a striking example of the range and accuracy of his peculiar knowledge, in a most complete explanation of “The Eras of Ancient and Modern Times, and of various Countries.” He still renders me the kindness of supplying to the “British Almanac” the brief notices under each month of the Hebrew Calendar and the Mohammedan Calendar. I knew him with some degree of intimacy, upon which I look back with pleasure, in the years before his great knowledge of languages gave him the high appointment of Secretary to the Royal Asiatic Society, and the onerous responsibility of translator to the Foreign Office. In our earliest intercourse, he not only won my regard by his intellectual and moral qualities, but to me he was especially interesting as the son of a newspaper proprietor at Taunton. He had acquired the practical knowledge of a printer; but, passionately fond of travelling, and devoted to studies whose usefulness was not exactly to be manifested in provincial journalism, he went to the continent as a private tutor, and remained abroad several years. In his pedestrian tours from city to city his remittances from home sometimes failed to reach him. He had resources in himself which were ever ready to secure his independence as a citizen of the world. Arriving at a certain town, he found himself almost penniless. Applying to the principal printer, he solicits employment as a compositor. He states his knowledge of foreign languages. Work is slack, and the young linguist is about to look further. “Stop!” says the typographical successor of the Stephenses (for I
believe the town was Geneva). “Stop! I have been printing a Hebrew Bible, of which a little is done; but I can find nobody here to finish it. Can you undertake the job and go through with it?” The job was undertaken, and it was completed. I need give no better illustration of that force of character which, in the instance of Mr. Norris, was one of many manifestations of that power which we are accustomed to call Genius.

In the department of the Fine Arts, Mr. Eastlake (now Sir Charles) contributed a few valuable papers—such as Basso Rilievo. Sir Edmund Head also wrote on painting, as did my old friend J. P. Davis. Mr. R. N. Wornum (now Keeper of the National Gallery) gave to the Cyclopædia the advantage of his almost unequalled knowledge of the general history and character of Schools of Art, and of the lives of the great painters. And here I may take occasion to mention—not only with reference to the biographies of artists, but of those of the eminent in Science, in Literature, in Statesmanship, in Theology, in Law—that the plan of the “Penny Cyclopædia” being such as to forbid the introduction of any living person, was necessarily limited and imperfect. Under the superintendence of the Useful Knowledge Society, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to have widened the biographical circle, so as to include many of those who were daily coming into contact with members of its committee in the friendships or the rivalries of Politics or letters. When the superintendence of the Society had ceased, the “English Cyclopædia” was free to take a wider range. It was with considerable reluctance that, as the conductor of the enlarged work,
I decided upon the introduction of the names of living persons, British and Foreign. There are, doubtless, grave objections to such a course; but the advantages, looking at them strictly in the literary point of view, are very manifest. A Cyclopæia that deals only with those of whom it may speak with the absolute freedom of the “honest chronicler” who is to keep the honour of the dead from corruption, must be, if not half a century, at least three or four decades behind the wants of the existing generation. This is an era in no respects more remarkable than for the long lives of many eminent men.
Lord Lyndhurst, for example, died in 1863, at the age of ninety-one. Because his place was not in the necrology of the century till that year, is the historical student to learn nothing from a biographical dictionary of the John Singleton Copley, who was counsel for Watson and Thistlewood in 1817? William Mulready died in 1863, at the age of seventy-eight. The young Irishman was a student of the Royal Academy in 1801. He was a Royal Academician in 1816. Was the most successful rival of Wilkie not to be noticed in a popular biography whilst his works were still the theme of admiration, and the old man could still look critically, but generously, upon the productions of celebrated artists who were unborn, or were mere boys, when he was in the zenith of his fame? Difficulties in such an undertaking there unquestionably were; but these were to be overcome by obtaining, wherever possible, from living persons themselves authentic materials; and above all, by avoiding rash inferences and hypothetical explanations.

Photography, in spite of the protests of land-
scape painters and portrait painters, has taken rank amongst the Fine Arts. Its imperfect beginnings only could have been noticed in the “
Penny Cyclopædia” When Arago, in 1839, communicated to the French Academy of Sciences that Daguerre had discovered a process by which objects could be faithfully represented by other agencies than the hand of man, the world was at first incredulous, as if an attempt had been made to revive the middle-age miracles. Englishmen came home from Paris with dim representations of buildings, and hideous copies of their own features, sun-painted on metal. Such were the first Daguerreotypes. Mr. Fox Talbot, who had been working out this discovery at the same period as Daguerre, soon produced his Talbotypes on paper, and, in 1841, described his process to the Society of Arts. But, as yet, photographic portraits and landscapes were regarded as mere curiosities. In twenty years photography was to bestow an amount of pleasure upon every class of society which had never been attained in any age by the imitative arts. It may not be too much to regard it as one of the special blessings of a beneficent Providence, that, at a period when steam navigation has dispersed the European races over the most distant regions of the habitable globe, there should have sprung up an invention which brings into the dwelling of the colonizer, whether a mansion or a cabin, the very scenes of the home he has left, and the images of the loved ones from whom he is separated.

This leads me briefly to advert to the Geographical department of the “Penny Cyclopædia.” This section also stopped short in 1843, in tracing that march of English adventure which had made new
nations in the days of
Elizabeth, but which had not yet accomplished the wonderful development of the Australian colonies during the reign of Victoria. There was a great deal to be done by the encyclopædist of the next twenty years. But what was done by us, especially in the department of Physical Geography, was of a character very different from the matter that had previously occupied the most elaborate geographical works. The chief contributor was Mr. William Wittich, who became Teacher of German at University College. I have heard Mr. Long declare, that he considered Mr. Wittich as the father of descriptive geography in this country. Of many other contributors to the geographical department, I must be content to mention the names of Sir Francis Beaufort, Sir J. F. Davis, Colonel Jackson, Mr. Smith, Secretary of King’s College, and Mr. Means. Karl Ritter, the celebrated professor at Berlin, wrote the important article “Asia.” Of Andre Vieusseux and of William Weir, whose contributions were extensive, I shall have subsequently to speak.

In the Natural History division of the Cyclopædia, I must especially mention Mr. William John Broderip, who contributed nearly all the Zoological articles of the entire work. No more remarkable example could have been presented of a man zealously discharging responsible official duties, and finding his best recreation in scientific pursuits, than Mr. Broderip. He was for thirty-four years one of the most industrious and upright Police Magistrates of the Metropolis. In writing a brief memoir of this learned and at the same time entertaining naturalist, I have said: “His articles in the ‘Cyclopaedia’ are models of scientific exactness and popular attrac-
tion; and whilst they have instructed and delighted thousands of readers, have won the suffrages of the most fastidious, even amongst those who are slow to believe that the solid and the amusing have no necessary antagonism.” In the section of Geology,
Mr. John Phillips, Professor of that science in King’s College, was a most valuable contributor. In that of Botany, Dr. Lindley wrote all the articles up to the letter R. Dr. Edwin Lankester, who had studied under Dr. Lindley at University College, gave also his valuable assistance to the original work, and subsequently edited the Natural History Division of its successor.

In Law and Jurisprudence, the “Penny Cyclopædia” was a most complete repository of information, historical and practical. The constitution of the Useful Knowledge Society, of which many eminent lawyers were members, gave an authority to its legal articles even before the names of its contributors were given to the world. As there were also eminent physicians and surgeons, the same prestige attached to its articles on Medical Science. A mere catalogue of the names of these professional men would scarcely be interesting, unless I were to trace the career of some who were only slightly known at the period of their early contributions, but who have subsequently risen into high reputation. Such, amongst the medical contributors, was the late Dr. Baley, whose useful life was so grievously cut short by a railway accident; such was Mr. J. Paget, the distinguished surgeon; such, Mr. John Simon, who, as the medical officer of the General Board of Health, has accomplished so much for sanitary reform. Dr. Robert Dickson, whose benevolence is as conspicuous as his knowledge, contributed all the articles on Materia Medica. Nor
must I omit
Dr. Southwood Smith, who supplied many of the articles on Anatomy, Medicine, and Physiology. I was his publisher also of that interesting popular work, “The Philosophy of Health.” Now that his most useful life has closed, I may mention a circumstance which I should have hesitated previously to print. Dr. Smith’s book, “The Use of the Dead to the Living,” chiefly led to the passing of the Anatomy Act, by which an end was put to the necessity of the hateful tribe of Resurrection Men, and to such atrocities as those which had been committed in Edinburgh and London, where adults and children had been systematically murdered by the vampires of modern times, who sold their bodies to the anatomical schools. Dr. Southwood Smith had been the intimate friend of Jeremy Bentham. It was the wish of the venerable philosopher that his body should be dissected, and for that purpose he left it to the enlightened physician who had been his attendant at the time of his death. Having called upon Dr. Smith at his house in the city, as I was going away he said, in his quiet manner, “Would you like to see Bentham?” I could not quite comprehend him; but leading the way into his hall, he unlocked, with a small key that hung to his watch-chain, a mahogany case, something like the sedan chair of a past generation. Behind an inner covering of plate-glass sat the figure of the old jurist in the identical clothes which he had worn living; a waxen face, round which was clustering the white hair, was covered with his well-known broad-brimmed hat, and he leant on the trusty stick with which he had so often paced the Green Park. I long stood absorbed
in many thoughts of the great man’s career. Dr. Smith withdrew the glass, opened the few buttons of the waistcoat, and then showed the skeleton, which preached the same lesson to the pride of human wisdom as the skull of “poor Yorick” did to the gibes that were wont “to set the table in a roar.”

Collected for the purpose of separate publication in the remodelled “English Cyclopædia,” it was found that the biographical articles of the original work constituted its largest division. It may, therefore, be concluded that in this place I can only notice the leading features of that division, and a few only of its contributors. Those who wrote the articles on history and literature, ancient and modern, furnished, for the most part, the series of biographies. It may be sufficient to point to articles by Thomas Hewitt Key, George Cornewall Lewis, George Long, Leonard Schmitz, Dr. Donaldson, Philip Smith, and William Smith, to show how completely these Lives were calculated to supersede the inaccurate sciolisms of Lemprière and similar manufacturers of Classical Dictionaries. Nor is it necessary that I should particularly specify those who brought their historical and literary knowledge to build up the compact, but yet full, Biographia Britannica, which our work presents, even without the subsequent addition of living names. The writers of these articles are generally well known in their more extended reputations as authors of separate works. But there was a class of writers whom Mr. Long had the good fortune to collect around him, who had previously added little to the stores of English learning. I allude to the eminent foreigners who wrote in the “Cyclopædia,” some in our language, others in their
own. The editorial care either corrected the foreign idioms—sometimes peeping out of their English compositions—or procured accurate translations of the French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, in which some wrote. One foreigner whose English required little correction, if any, was
André Vieusseux. I had been intimate with this most amiable and accomplished man from the time when he wrote in the “Quarterly Magazine.” I had published, in 1824, his delightful work, “Italy and the Italians.” My pleasant and improving intercourse with him was renewed when he became one of the most industrious contributors to the “Cyclopædia.” His life had been a varied and eventful one. As a youth he had seen the bloody course of revolution in Naples, when it was doubtful which was most to be hated—monarchical oppression or democratic fury. He had fought in the Peninsular War, as an officer in one of the foreign legions. After the peace, he had settled in England upon a small independence, to which he was enabled to add by literary labour. His conscientious devotion to the right performance of whatever he undertook, his large experience, and his correct taste, made him one of our most valuable coadjutors. In German literature, Dr. Leonard Schmitz was as useful as in classical. Pascual de Gayangos, who had married an English lady, also wrote fluently in our language during his residence amongst us. His perfect acquaintance with Arabic gave him a mastery over the general and literary history of Spain during the mediæval period, which few of his countrymen have attained. His biographies in the “Cyclopædia”—Spanish and Oriental—are, therefore, particularly
valuable. Another great Oriental scholar,
Frederick Augustus Rosen, was the Sanskrit Professor in University College. In the “Penny Cyclopædia” he wrote all the articles on Oriental literature from “Abbasides” to “Ethiopian Language.” His labours were terminated by his sudden death in 1837, at the age of thirty-two. This distinguished native of Hanover acquired in England a host of friends, whose admiration he had won by his high intellectual attainments, and whose love was commanded by his gentle manners and kind heart. Count Krasinski was one of the Polish exiles in England to whom literature had become the only means of support. He came here on a diplomatic mission, in 1830, from the revolutionary government, of which Prince Czartoryski was president. In 1831, when the hope of Polish independence was again crushed, he dwelt among us a penniless fugitive, until his death in 1855. His contributions to the “Penny Cyclopædia” were on the Sclavonian history and literature.

I have passed over Music, in referring to the department of Fine Arts, that I may more particularly notice the amount of musical taste and knowledge amongst us twenty years ago. Mr. William Ayrton could scarcely, during the time I knew him, be called a Professor of Music, although some few years previous the opera had been under his management. A man of education, he moved in the best society; whilst his ability as a writer, combined with his extensive musical knowledge, fitted him to contribute the whole series of musical biographies to the “Penny Cyclopædia.” He had previously edited for me a work which, I may flatter myself, contributed something to that great change which has made the
English of the reign of
Queen Victoria as musical a people as their ancestors of Queen Elizabeth’s time. The moveable types used in the “Musical Library” furnished the means of producing vocal and instrumental music from the best masters, in weekly sheets of eight pages, sold at about a quarter of the price of the ordinary sheet of the music shops. The period was then only beginning when an idea penetrated the English mind, that in music, as in the other Fine Arts, anything but the common-place and vulgar could have any charms for the bulk of the people. Profound philosophers believed that nothing else could please, theatrical managers affirmed that nothing else would draw. The great and fashionable firmly relied upon the unchangeableness of the opinion—though a hundred and twenty years old—of Isaac Bickerstaff, who says: “In Italy, nothing is more frequent than to hear a cobbler working to an opera tune; but, on the contrary, our honest countrymen have so little an inclination to music, that they seldom begin to sing till they are drunk.” In the “Penny Magazine” for 1834, it was said: “The theatres and other public places have administered to bad taste: little or nothing except trash has been open to the people; and they have been deemed barbarians because they took what fell in their way, and showed no love for what they never had an opportunity of knowing. We trust, however, that, for the future, good music, like good literature, may be made accessible to all; and that, as a mode of enlarging the cheap enjoyments of a poor man’s life, even every village school in the kingdom may possess the means of teaching (as they are taught at similar establishments in several districts of Germany, in
Bohemia, and even in the snow-covered, poverty-stricken island of Iceland) the art of reading musical notation and the first rudiments of music.”

I have traced the greatest work of the Useful Knowledge Society to its completion at the end of eleven years. Let me revert to its opening period, when the friends of Popular Education had not only to build up the walls of their citadel, but to work with weapons at their side. When the “Penny Magazine,” during two years’ existence, had reached a sale quite unprecedented in Popular Literature, and after the first year’s publication, with marked success, of the “Penny Cyclopædia,” a series of attacks, as unceasing as they were virulent, were directed against the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, and against me, especially, as their chief instrument in the fearful revolution which was threatening to destroy the legitimate thrones and dominations of the empire of books. The Society was a monopoly; the “Penny Magazine” was “a glorious humbug upon the reading portion of the operatives,” for it was nothing more than a bookseller’s speculation, which “brings in Knight some thousands per annum;” the idea of the “Penny Cyclopædia” was stolen from a respectable man, who was struggling to maintain a young family, “by a trader, who, because he has the name of the Society painted on his sign-board, seems to think himself entitled to throw off all the ordinary restraints to which fair rivalry in trade is subject;”* the writers in these works were literary drudges—obscure literary drudges, without a single idea in their heads, save what they filch from the British Museum.

* Ante, p. 200.

Such was
the temper in which the “New Monthly Magazine” poured out the vials of its wrath on my devoted head. It was necessary to publish a few facts, with very little comment, to show the falsehoods and absurdities of the daily, weekly, and monthly assaults of this complexion. That was done, with the sanction of the Society, in the “Companion to the Almanac,” in December, 1833. On the 15th of February, 1834, I published No. I. of “The Printing Machine, a Review for the Many;” and therein, in an article entitled “The Literary Newspapers,” I uttered, perhaps with more spirit than prudence, some unpalatable remonstrances against the systematic hostility of the two journals which I described as “the advanced guard of the army of letters, who carry small baggage on their march.” The attacks soon became more personal.

Towards the end of that February, I was proposed as a member of the “Garrick Club.” In the second week of March a very dear friend, my solicitor, Mr. Thomas Clarke, came to me to say that the Committee of that Club were hesitating about my election, as I had been excluded from a Club which had been formed out of members of the “Literary Union,” such exclusion involving some serious imputation upon my character and conduct. I had been a member of the “Literary Union” for three or four years. Several gentlemen immediately undertook to ascertain the nature of the charges against me; and I was in a few days authorised by two of these friends to rest the vindication of my character upon the ground that the imputation made in the Committee of the “Literary Union Club,” appointed for the formation of a New Club, was, that I had
formerly failed in business—and dishonourably failed—that I “had made a bad bankruptcy.” In twenty-four hours I had possessed myself of the means of my vindication. The publication of an indignant letter addressed by me to the Committee, accompanied by the documents which they had refused to look at, was my only course. That paper was circulated by me to a limited extent. It consisted of letters from my three trustees, a London printer, a London stationer, and a banker of Windsor, and one also from the solicitor to the trustees. They were to the effect that my suspension of payments was not to be attributed in the slightest degree to any misconduct, or even imprudence, on my part; but was an unavoidable result of the Panic of 1825, which so materially diminished the value of all bookselling property; that the final resolution to place my affairs under the management of trustees was come to by my creditors with the greatest reluctance to interfere with my own administration of my estate; that the anxious and self-denying care with which I abstained from receiving a single shilling of its proceeds after that resolution had been come to, was a striking instance of firmness and integrity; that I had been unvarying in my determination not to consider the release from my engagements as at all binding, except in a legal point of view, and had unweariedly laboured to discharge every debt in full, just as if no such acquittance had taken place, going far beyond what they thought a duty to my own family.

It is not from any motive of self-exaltation that I revive this matter, never to touch it again. My own deep feeling of gratitude to the eminent men with whom I was associated in the Useful Knowledge
Society is called forth now, when I glance at the many warm letters from them which this occurrence produced. Nor do I feel less grateful to
Mr. Coates, their secretary, for his letters to me at this juncture. My friends were anxious that the stigma of my exclusion from this so-called Literary Club should be effectually wiped off by my election to the most distinguished Club in London. Lord Lansdowne, in a letter addressed to the Lord Chancellor, full of the most hearty kindness towards me, declared his opinion upon the wishes that my friends had expressed on my behalf: “There is no man in England better entitled than Knight to come into the Athenæum,” and he subsequently agreed to propose me as a member. This Lord Lansdowne did, with a full knowledge of the circumstances. The Bishop of Winchester, whose conduct to me since 1827 had been marked by unvarying kindness and generosity, wished to support my nomination. Many other leading members of that Club—and I was glad to have Mr. Murray amongst the number—volunteered their aid. But party feeling then ran high, and I was unwilling to risk a contest, which might renew what was very disagreeable to me as a subject of public discussion. The “Garrick Club Committee” elected me after a brief interval. I became also one of the early members of the “Reform Club.”

The hostility against the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, which had been manifested by a small section of the periodical press, gradually died out. Public opinion was louder than the cuckoo cry of “monopoly” that was shouted by fashionable publishers and echoed by a clique of the regular professors of “la litérature facile.” Those who wrote
for the Society had been called in derision “compilers.” The “men of genius” who despised industry as dulness had their little day of sarcasm against “literary drudges,” but in the end the public many was too strong for the exclusive few. The bookselling trade—publishers as well as retailers—had also discovered that, in the manifest extension of readers, a reliance might be placed upon the principle of increased numbers co-operating to purchase cheap books, and that enlarged returns would make up for diminished profits upon dear books. They had discovered that the trade of books would not be destroyed by cheap weekly sheets. If they had not arrived, through a process of reasoning, at the belief that the more people read the more they will read, they had the evidence of their own ledgers to inform them that the literary returns of the United Kingdom had nearly doubled since the terrible era of cheapness which commenced in 1827. Books, which at the beginning of the century had been a luxury, had now become a necessity. Still the objection was urged that, however extended was the market for popular literature, the quality of the supply must as a matter of course be low. The “
Penny Cyclopædia” furnished a very sufficient answer to such reasoners.

The calumnies with which I had been personally assailed had not accomplished their object—that of injuring me as a man of business. They did not lessen the regard of my old friends, nor did they cut me off from the confidence which secured me a new and important connexion. Within another year I became associated as Publisher with the great measure of Local Administration that had received the sanction of Parliament.


Towards the close of 1833 was published by authority, “Extracts from the Information received by His Majesty’s Commissioners, as to the Administration and Operation of the Poor Laws.” I have mentioned that at the end of 1832 I had been permitted by the Lord Chancellor to look over some portion of this evidence. The facts of which I derived a knowledge from a partial glance at these papers, and the discussions which arose upon them, made a deep impression on my mind.

Some preliminary extracts from the large mass of evidence were published early enough to enable me to allude to their bearing, in “An Address to the Subscribers to the Windsor and Eton Public Library,” which I delivered in October, 1833. I said “I was forcibly struck by some evidence given before the Poor Law Commissioners, which went to show that in those parishes where the agricultural labourers had, to the greatest extent, lost their feeling of independence and self-respect, and were consequently ignorant and ill-informed, they had proportionally fallen off even in the knowledge and practice of what constitutes a good workman in their own business. This is, indeed, one of the many proofs that a man will become a better ploughman or a better hedger, by knowing something more than how to drive a team or cut a stake. It was truly said before these same commissioners by the assistant-overseer of this very town, that he could tell in a moment, by the neat or the slovenly appearance of the cottages, whether the tenants of them were, or were not, receiving parochial relief. I believe, if we were to examine the matter still more narrowly, we should find in the same appearance of the dwellings of the
poor a pretty correct indication of the state of knowledge amongst their inmates. Books are, no doubt, the readiest roads to knowledge; but there may be a great deal of knowledge, and a great deal of taste, without any very extensive acquaintance with books. If I enter the premises of a working man, and find his garden deformed with weeds—his once latticed porch broken and unseemly—his walls discoloured—his hearth dirty,—I know that there is little self-respect in the master of that hovel, and that he flies from his comfortless home to the nightly gratification which the ale-house supplies. But show me the trim crocus in the spring, or the gorgeous dahlia in the autumn, flourishing in his neat enclosure—let me see the vine or the monthly rose covering his cottage walls in regulated luxuriance—let me find within, the neatly sanded floor, the well-polished furniture, a few books, and a print or two over his chimney, and I am satisfied that the occupiers of that cottage have a principle at work within them which will do much to keep them from misery and degradation.”

When the entire evidence was published, as well as the first Report of the Commissioners, I could honestly express my convictions of the detestable nature of the system under which we had been living up to that period. In “The Journal of Education” for July, 1834, I wrote an article on “Pauperism and Education,” which I think was not an exaggerated representation of a state of society which has, in a great degree, happily passed away. The whole of our vicious system of administering the Poor Laws was stimulated by the general ignorance of the ratepayers. The practical men, as they called themselves, who turned up their noses at political philosophers,
contrived to get some ten or twenty millions of public money annually to pass through their fingers, in the shape of poor’s-rates, and church-rates, and highway-rates, and county-rates; and to apply these moneys, each according to his own fancy, with that intuitive perception of what is just and expedient that produced the follies and miseries described in so many particulars in the evidence then recently published. When we considered how many important functions the higher and middle classes of this country were called upon to discharge—member of Parliament, magistrate, corporator, road-commissioner, churchwarden, overseer, surveyor of highways, trustee of charities—it was almost incredible that a glimmering of political knowledge should not break through the “darkness visible” of our various systems of public education. But there was another consequence of the ignorance and indifference of the upper and middle classes which was not quite so manifest an evil as their waste of the public money. While I held that the poor-laws could not be better administered until those who administered them were better educated, I maintained that the necessity for a vigilant, and even a severe, administration of them would never cease, until the working classes could be raised by improved education completely above a dependence upon charitable relief, whether forced or voluntary. The poor man must be made a thinking man—a man capable of intellectual pleasures; he must be purified in his tastes, and elevated in his understanding; he must be taught to comprehend the real dignity of all useful employments; he must learn to look upon the distinctions of society without envy or servility; he must respect them, for they are open
to him as well as to others; but he must respect himself more. The best enjoyments of our nature might be common to him and the most favoured by fortune: let him be taught how to appreciate them. Diminish the attractions of his sensual enjoyments by extending the range of his mental pleasures. It was not enough to teach him what was taught in our national schools.
Oberlin, the pastor of Waldbach, whose memoirs were published about this time, did not fear that he should get no labourers, because he instructed his poor children in botany, and drawing, and music.

In March, 1834, Mr. Edwin Chadwick—with whom I had then the pleasure to form an intimacy of which I have had the benefit for thirty years—wrote to me, “The Government will have up-hill work to carry the Poor-Law Reform, and will need all direct and indirect aid that the press and good men can give them.” No effort of the press could be more effective than Mr. Chadwick’s Report, as one of the Assistant-Commissioners of Inquiry. Its merits were so striking that he was at once raised to the higher position of a Commissioner of that Inquiry. The “up-hill work,” which Mr. Chadwick anticipated, endured in both Houses of Parliament from the 17th of April to the 14th of August, when the Poor Law Amendment Act received the Royal assent. It empowered his Majesty to appoint three Commissioners for England and Wales, to carry the Act into execution. Those appointed were—The Right Hon. Thomas Frankland Lewis, John George Shaw Lefevre, Esq., and George Nicholls, Esq. The Secretary to the Board, also appointed by the Crown, was Edwin Chadwick, Esq.


On the 6th of December, 1834, the first Union of Parishes was formed. In September, 1835, the Commissioners published their first Annual Report, in which they announced that they had united 2066 parishes, constituting 112 unions. During this gradual introduction of the new measure, I had been appointed “Publisher by Authority” to the Commission. My appointment was not an affair of favouritism, as it was represented to be. Under the schedule to the Act, certain forms were prescribed for the administration of unions, including a few for keeping their accounts. These were necessarily open to all persons to print and to publish. Account books were prepared and advertised, but they were to be sold to the Local Boards at such an extravagantly dear rate, that if all the parishes of the country were to be embodied in unions, the mere expense of stationery would have been a frightful item in the annual charges. I saw pretty clearly that the demand for forms and books of account would soon be a very large one, and that the principle of cheapness might be applied here with the same advantage as in other productions of the printing press. I laid my plans before a Board at Somerset House. The attention with which the three Commissioners and their Secretary listened to me was most encouraging in my attempt to surmount the difficulty which presented itself, and which was also a real embarrassment to the Commissioners. In three weeks many unions would come into operation. It was necessary that all their accounts should be kept upon a uniform system. Other forms of Out-door Relief and of Workhouse management were required besides those prescribed
by the Act. The experience that I had gained in my Windsor days enabled me to suggest some of the more important of these.
Mr. Nicholls, whose capacity for high administrative functions had been trained in the humbler but important position of overseer of his own parish of Southwell—where he introduced some of those effective reforms which were embraced in the new Act—suggested many valuable forms, and bestowed upon mine the most careful supervision. By working night and day, the books of account were ready to be sold to every union and every parish as they came under the operation of the Act. If my appointment was not an affair of favoritism, neither was it one of monopoly. It was stipulated that, whilst the authority under which I published would entitle me to receive early official communications, the right of printing and publishing whatever emanated from the Commission should be enjoyed by any others who should print the books correctly and publish them as cheaply as myself. Upon this principle I have harmoniously worked with the Poor-Law Commissioners and the Poor-Law Board during thirty years.

I cannot pass over the days of my early intercourse with the Poor-Law Commissioners, without adverting to the unvarying kindness which I received from the two gentlemen with whom I was most brought in contact—those eminent public servants who are now Sir John Shaw Lefevre and Sir George Nicholls. To both I am grateful for many tokens of regard. With Sir George Nicholls I have enjoyed for many years a friendship which I cannot value too highly.