LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter X

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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“THE success of the ‘Penny Magazine’ has induced the Committee to undertake the publication of a ‘Penny Cyclopædia,’ in Numbers and Monthly Parts. A work of such magnitude and novelty requires all the assistance which can be afforded it by the Members of the Society, both in London and in the Country, in order to give it publicity and circulation.” Such was the announcement of their greatest undertaking in the annual address of the Useful Knowledge Society, dated June 30, 1832. A specimen of the projected “Penny Cyclopædia” had been printed by Mr. Clowes on the previous 2nd of June. This fact was certified by him after a surreptitious “Penny Cyclopædia” had been advertised in the daily papers of the 16th of August “as now ready.” This had been met on the 17th by an advertisement from the Committee, cautioning the public against an attempt to impose upon them. The career of this pretender was terminated before the issue of the first number of the real “Penny Cyclopaedia,” on the 2nd of January, 1833.

In characterizing their undertaking as “a work of such magnitude and novelty,” the Committee appear to have looked at its magnitude, rather with reference to the universal range of the proposed information, than to the contemplated limits in point of size. I
have stated that the “
Penny Cyclopædia” was projected by me “to form a moderate-sized book of eight volumes.”* The novelty was not to consist in producing a Cyclopædia under one alphabetical arrangement, but in its issue in weekly sheets, each of which was to be sold at a penny. But there was another novelty which would very soon be discovered by the educated portion of the public, upon a comparison of this work with existing Cyclopædias. It was not an affair of scissors and paste. It was not a hash from German and French sources. Its writers had not “been at a great feast of languages and stolen the scraps.” Every article was to be original; to be furnished by various men, each the best that could be found in special departments of knowledge. The essential difficulty of making the contributions at once brief and complete was discovered when the experiment came to be tried for a few months. It was impossible, moreover, to offer an adequate remuneration to a competent scholar or man of science, when it was said to him—You must give us the very cream of your knowledge; you must pour out the fullest information in the most condensed form of words; your articles must nevertheless be readable and perfectly intelligible to the popular mind; and yet, under these difficult conditions, you must be paid at a certain rate per page. This “solatium,” not low as compared with reviews and magazine articles in reference to the mere number of words, was very low if the merit of the Cyclopædia was to consist in extreme compression, whilst the Review and the Magazine conductors would allow of

* Companion to the Almanac, 1858, p. 15.

any amount of expansion not altogether extravagant. The plan would never work. It would pay the gardener to grow dwarf pear trees and peach trees, but it would not pay the writer to produce dwarfed articles that, like the rarities of the hot-house and conservatory, should be perfect in form, if not in size, bear good fruit, and not die very prematurely. A very clever and accomplished author,
Mr. Samuel Phillips, thus described the issue of this experiment: “When the Cyclopædia was started, the public were invited to pay their penny a week, and to seize the opportunity of securing, not only a valuable, but also an incomparably cheap publication. ‘Useful knowledge’ was to be ‘diffused’ by a society appointed for the express purpose, but it was not to be ‘diffusive.’ It was to be poured abroad, but in such a form as should instruct, not weary or perplex the recipient. If we remember rightly, eight good compact volumes were to contain the substantial food for which the working mind was pining. Before one volume, however, was completed, the Committee thought it expedient to hint that it must ‘be observed that the plan of the Cyclopædia had been rather enlarged.’ After a year the plan had enlarged so much that the rate of issue was doubled. It was no longer a penny a week, but twopence. After three years it was quadrupled—fourpence a-week instead of twopence. Had the original plan of a penny weekly issue been persevered in, it would have taken exactly thirty-seven years to complete the business.” *

The extension of the quantity of the Cyclopædia

* “Times,” Oct. 12, 1854.

was no doubt unavoidable under the superintendence of the Society, but it destroyed its commercial value. Had it been a careful compilation, instead of an original work furnished by nearly two hundred contributors, it would have been to me a fortune. In that case, its preparation being confined to a few persons, its proposed limits could have been steadily adhered to. I have recorded,—without inferring that any blame was in the least degree to be attached to those who were responsible for its conduct—what was the commercial result of this enterprise. “The Committee had the honour of the work, in its extended form, but without incurring any of the risk, or contributing one shilling to the cost, the literary expenditure alone having reached nearly 40,000l. Upon the completion of the Cyclopædia, the balance upon the outlay above the receipts was 30,788l.”* The regular decrease in the sale was very marked. While it continued to be published upon its original plan of one number weekly, the sale was 75,000. The instant there was an issue of two numbers a week it fell to 55,000, and at the end of its second year it had fallen to 44,000. When the twopence a week became fourpence, the rate of diminution became still more rapid. The sale of the first year was double that of the fourth year. The sale of the fourth year doubled that of the eighth year. It then found its level, and became steady to the end—the 55,000 of the latter months of 1833 having been reduced to 20,000 at the close of 1843. The Committee of the Society, when the original project had been departed from, and they saw that the under-

* Companion to the Almanac, 1858, p. 15.

taking had become to me a burden and a loss, passed a resolution that no rent be paid upon the first 110,000 copies of each number of the “Penny Cyclopædia.” Rent was then to commence; and to continue till the work had reached a sale of 200,000, when the Society would no longer ask for a remuneration for its superintendence. No doubt I was grateful for this sanguine anticipation of a good time coming, but it is scarcely prudent or satisfactory for a commercial man to postpone his profits ad Calendas Græcas. The chronic loss for eleven years, which was induced by the Cyclopædia, and which fell wholly upon me, absorbed every other source of profit in my extensive business, leaving me little beyond a bare maintenance, without the hope of laying by for the future.

There was a very serious interruption to the sale of the Cyclopædia after it had existed about six months; which may be worth recording, as exhibiting the evils of unrepealed laws passed in former states of society and under different circumstances. I find this record in the Minutes of the Committee of the 12th of June, 1833: “Mr. Knight laid on the table a letter from Mr. Drake, of Birmingham, dated the 10th instant, which stated, that informations had been filed, and convictions obtained, under the 27th clause of the 39th George III., chap. 79, against booksellers in that town, for selling a publication whereof the printer’s name did not appear on the first and last pages; and that in consequence many booksellers were fearful of selling the ‘Penny Magazine’ and ‘Cyclopædia.’” Copies of these and other letters received on this subject were transmitted to Mr. Spring Rice, with whom I had an interview. The
result was that, although a law might eventually be passed to remedy the oppression of these qui tam informations, the statute of the 39th George III. could not at once be repealed. I had no remedy but to call in the whole of the stock in the hands of many wholesale agents scattered through the country, who had to go through the same process with those they had supplied. The law was subsequently altered in its effect by the Government deciding that it should be left to the discretion of the Attorney-General to prosecute publishers in all cases where the statute was not strictly adhered to.

Mr. Phillips has said in his article on the “Penny Cyclopædia”—“Mr. Knight, the publisher and prime mover of the undertaking, proudly congratulated himself at its close upon having achieved a great literary triumph; he had also, as was usual in his pæans, to mingle in his song the melancholy note of one suffering under the consciousness of great commercial loss.” The melancholy note which was out of harmony with my pæans was almost invariably connected with the pressure of the paper duty upon all works of large circulation and low price. With the high duty of threepence in the pound, it required a steadfast resolution on my part not to be beaten by excessive taxation, and an equal hope that the duty might be abolished or reduced, to prevent me throwing up the Cyclopædia in despair. In 1836 the duty was reduced to three halfpence in the pound. This was a relief; but it was not commensurate with the constant falling sale to which I have adverted. I gladly suspend “the melancholy note” and turn to a much more interesting subject—the
reminiscence of some of the most valued contributors to the Cyclopædia, whose services conferred upon it a reputation which has survived during all the varied changes of literature and science that we have seen, and which is capable of a constant renewal of its pristine vigour, such as has been accomplished in “
The English Cyclopædia.”

The author of “The Rehearsal” has made merry with the notion of “two kings of Brentford sitting on one throne, smelling to one nosegay.” If Mr. Long and myself had persevered for more than a few months in the attempt to divide the editorial duties connected with the “Penny Cyclopædia” we might possibly have been presented to the world in this ludicrous attitude. As it was, I very soon most gladly resigned the reins into the hands of one who managed his team with consummate skill during many years. For such a work as the Cyclopædia a thoroughly competent Editor was indispensable. He must combine the moral qualities of unwearied industry and undeviating punctuality, with the firmness which is best supported by courtesy and kindness. I have heard that a man of letters who was rather raw, laid down as a maxim for his editorial guidance that he must be polite to his contributors, but by no means familiar. Mr. Long’s contributors gathered round him as friends. On his intellectual qualities it is unnecessary for me to dilate. Lord Brougham, in his Address to the Association for the Promotion of Social Science in 1857, referred to the operations of the Committees of the Useful Knowledge Society as an example of “the beneficial effects of united action.” In the “Companion to the Almanac” for 1858, I noticed, as I
felt it my duty to do, the somewhat exaggerated estimate which the Chairman of the Society had formed of the results of this united action, without making the slightest reference to individual actions. Speaking more especially of Mr. Long’s labours as Editor of the Cyclopædia, and incidentally alluding to my own in connection with the “
Penny Magazine” and other works, I said—“That the Society presented many advantages as a base of operations is unquestionable. It had the prestige of great names connected with it. Its members were of high intelligence and various learning; they were industrious; and, what was of equal importance, they confided in their editors. Had this confidence not existed, the periodical works could not have gone on a single month. They would have broken down under a divided responsibility, and have been suffocated in the red-tapeism of what Lord Brougham described as ‘a vigilant superintendence over the style, so that errors in composition and offences against correct, and even severe, taste were sure to be corrected,’—always provided that the editors had any reliance upon the correct, and even severe, taste of the correctors. That ‘the great number of our members’ produced even these minor results is a figure of speech. There were a few working members, as there are in every association, who were valuable referees; but that the Society, as a body, was the moving power which enabled it to publish for twenty years ‘with unbroken regularity,’ we humbly beg to say is a continuance of a delusion which was not entertained by those members who were content to aid in doing what they thought a work of public utility, without attempting to shut
their eyes to what had been accomplished, during many years, by editorial responsibility.”

In the sixth chapter, I have incidentally mentioned several of the earlier members of the Useful Knowledge Committee as contributors to the Cyclopædia. Upon looking over the general list of the contributors to this work during the many years of its publication, I cannot but regard it as most fortunate that a rule, which was attempted to be established in the first stages of the Society, soon came to be held as perfectly impracticable. This rule, to which Lord Brougham gave the name of the Self-denying Ordinance, was in effect that no member of the Committee should be paid for his writings. It was perhaps desirable that such a rule should have existed at the origin of the Society, when it was considered that public subscriptions would be necessary for its maintenance. But when it was found that during five years this source of revenue had only yielded to the Society a clear annual sum of 125l., and that its publications might be carried on upon the commercial principle alone, and afford a profit partly to the Society and partly to its publishers, it would have been the extreme of false delicacy to deny to the Editor of the Cyclopædia, especially, the services of some of the best contributors he could anywhere find. The time was past when the highest in rank, as well as the most eminent in literature or science, would think it a degradation to be paid for their writings. And thus, whether members of our Committee or otherwise, every writer in the Cyclopædia was paid at a fixed rate, whose aggregate at the end of the work had amounted to the large sum I have previously
stated. Standing, therefore, upon the same principle as regulated the pecuniary arrangements with other contributors—the only principle upon which the relations of author and publisher can be harmoniously maintained—I shall not attempt to separate the two classes in referring with necessary brevity to the chief supporters of this undertaking in the character of writers.

First in importance of the great departments of the “Cyclopædia,” may be reckoned that of mathematical and physical science. Upon Professor De Morgan rested its heaviest labours. It was essential that one mind should have the almost undivided charge of Mathematics, considering that, the order of the articles being alphabetical, the relation of one portion of a subject to the other had constantly to be regarded so as to render the whole series of articles complete and harmonious. Thus this collection of mathematical papers, when duly arranged by their author according to his own views, have been constantly referred to in his classes at University College. Astronomy necessarily formed a portion of this division, and to Professor De Morgan are due the accuracy and completeness of the general articles on this subject. There were special papers on this branch of science by other contributors. In speaking of the series on astronomical instruments, by the Rev. Richard Sheepshanks (who became a member of the committee soon after the first publication of the Cyclopædia), I cannot forbear to express the admiration I always felt for this distinguished man. There was a breadth in his understanding which carried him beyond the range of the minute and laborious scientific opera-
tions to which he devoted the greater part of his time. He was a liberal thinker in political matters, although never publicly meddling with the great questions whose triumphs he rejoiced to behold. His conversation on matters of history and literature always presented the evidence of sound thought and rich learning. He was ready to assist in any well-considered project of utility with a self-devotion quite untainted by any desire of profit or distinction. The same generous spirit seems to have been a family inheritance, for it was his brother
John, who, in 1856, presented to the nation his noble collection of pictures by British artists.

Lord Brougham used to point with a just pride to the one contribution of the Astronomer-Royal to the “Penny Cyclopædia,” as a notable example of the value of popular literature in the eyes of one of the most eminent scientific men of his day. Mr. Airy’s paper on Gravitation is indeed a masterpiece of lucid exposition without the employment of mathematical formulae. Printed in a separate shape it was long used as a text-book at Cambridge, and has been reprinted (without alteration, as the author desired) in the “English Cyclopædia.” There are some valuable papers on Physics, commencing with the letter D, by Robert Murphy, one of those unfortunate men whose remarkable powers of mind have been neutralised by the want of those moral qualities which would have preserved them from a course of vicious indulgence. His early career presents one of the most striking examples of self-education on record. He was born in 1806, the son of a parish clerk and shoemaker, at Mallow, in Ireland. At eleven years of age, while learning his father’s trade,
he was run over by a cart, and whilst lying for twelve months on his bed, with a fractured thighbone, was supplied by his friends with books. A Cork Almanac, which was amongst these, contained some mathematical problems that excited his curiosity. He desired to know more of the subject so attractive to him, and
Euclid was put into his hands. In course of time the lame boy, who used to write answers to mathematical problems which appeared in newspapers, obtained patrons who endeavoured to take him out of his intended life of mechanical employment. They failed in procuring his admission as a student of Trinity College, Dublin, through his deficiency in classical acquirements, although he had received much valuable assistance in his favourite pursuit from a schoolmaster at Mallow. At length, when he had reached the age of nineteen, some of his papers were placed in the hands of Professor Woodhouse, of Cambridge, who, having at first reluctantly looked at them, was suddenly struck by such evidences of original talent, that he entered the name of Robert Murphy on the boards of Caius College. With the exception of a small outfit from his friends in Ireland, his expenses at Cambridge were defrayed by the College in addition to the receipts of his scholarship. In 1829, he was elected a Fellow of Caius. In 1832, although he had taken Deacon’s orders, he fell into dissipated habits, and his fellowship was sequestrated for debt. His frailties were treated with indulgence by the college authorities, and it seemed probable that he would regain his position in the University. He came, however, to London in 1836, to look for employment as a teacher and a writer; began the
articles on Physics in the Cyclopædia, and subsequently wrote a treatise on Algebraic Equations for the Society. Before his death, in March, 1843, of a pulmonary disease, “the necessity of struggling for a livelihood made it impossible for him to give his undivided attention to researches which, above all others, demand both peace of mind and undisturbed leisure.”* Amongst the contributors in the general department of Physics, I must add the name of
Mr. Narrien, Professor of Mathematics in the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. He was also our chief authority in military science. Although the vast changes in the art of war, during the last twenty years, have impaired the practical value of many of his articles, they formed a solid foundation of principles, on which to build a view of the modern improvements which have set all nations upon devising the most efficient means of attack and defence. Gunnery and fortification, under the modern principle, may probably have the consequence of diminishing the amount of bloodshed, in the same way as the invention of gunpowder put an end to such battlefields of unscientific carnage as that of Agincourt.

The general articles on Physics in the “Penny Cyclopædia”—in which, as in all other departments, occasion was invariably taken in the latter portion of the alphabet to make mention of more recent improvements and discoveries—present the evidence of the truth, expressed in a few words by Dr. Arnott, “that human knowledge and art have been progressive in the world, and are now advancing with accelerated speed.”† Thus, although the papers on

* Supplement to “Penny Cyclopædia.”

† “Elements of Physics,” 1864. Introduction, p. vii.

Electricity and Magnetism dealt with a full knowledge of the theories existing some twenty years ago, much that was then new has now become almost obsolete, except in connection with the history of science. But more strikingly is this principle exemplified in the large series of articles on Chemistry and Mineralogy, which were almost wholly confided to
Richard Phillips. No one more thoroughly or more practically acquainted with the science, and more capable of furnishing lucid expositions, could have been found. He was held in the highest respect by the chemists of his day, as may be judged from the fact that when the Chemical Society of London was founded, in 1841, the distinction was offered to him of becoming its first president. He was then working at his articles in the “Penny Cyclopædia,” as he had worked from its commencement. I had many opportunities of familiar intercourse with this eminent man, whose simplicity of character and manner seem to have retained something of the plainness and sincerity of that school of pharmaceutical chemistry in which he was educated—the establishment in Plough Court of William Allen, the Quaker. Mr. Phillips died in his seventy-third year, in 1851, being then the curator and chemist of the Museum of Practical Geology. In 1852, Dr. Daubeny, president of the Chemical Society, in his annual address described Mr. Phillips (who in 1850 had been his predecessor in that office) as being during the latter part of his life, “a connecting link between the chemists of the last generation and of the present, having been the contemporary of Davy and Wollaston no less than of Faraday and Graham.” He was further described as “one of the
last of that distinguished band of philosophers who, before chemical science had so enlarged its boundaries, as to include within its domain, and to comprehend within the operation of its laws, the products of animal and vegetable life, occupied themselves almost exclusively in the investigation of the combinations of which mineral bodies are susceptible.” But not only had the domain of chemistry been thus greatly enlarged, but its very language has been changed. Symbols now convey to the mind of the student facts which previously required to be expressed in many words. Thus, valuable as the articles of Mr. Phillips were, they demanded careful remodelling and large additions for the “
English Cyclopædia.” In two more decades, perhaps even in one, the same process will again have to be gone through, if that book is to preserve its reputation, and not stereotype what has become obsolete and inapplicable to new conditions of science or social life.

I turn to the applications of science to the arts. First in importance in the past and in the present state of civilisation is Agriculture. I have a note before me, dated February 25th, 1833, from the Rev. William Lewis Rham, whom I had slightly known during my Windsor experience as the Vicar of Winkfield, in Berkshire. He therein proposes, upon the suggestion of his friend, Mr. Jardine, to write for the “Penny Cyclopædia,” “as affording a considerable variety of subjects, and especially those connected with agriculture, to which I have paid some attention, and in which I have some practical experience.” This proposition was gladly closed with; for it was not easy then to find one of “practical experience” in agriculture who had the power of expressing his
ideas in a style which should unite brevity with clearness, and by its popular qualities turn aside the country gentleman and the cultivator from their ordinary contempt of “book-farming.” Mr. Rham immediately commenced that series of papers in the “Penny Cyclopædia,” which were subsequently collected in a volume entitled “
The Dictionary of the Farm.” He wrote the first of these articles at the beginning of 1833. He wrote the last of the series, “Yorkshire Husbandry,” in 1843, only a few weeks before his death. During these eleven years of occasional intercourse, I saw in Mr. Rham one of the most amiable and benevolent of men. I visited him in his parish, where he discharged his pastoral duties with exemplary care. But he did more than the ordinary duties of his position. The Winkfield School of Industry, under his guidance, became a model for all similar institutions in country parishes. There were then few examples in England of what Fellenberg was doing at Hofwyl. Mr. Rham was not opposed, even during a period of political excitement, as Fellenberg was opposed in 1833. But Mr. Rham did not receive in his plans for education any great sympathy from his own class. He farmed his glebe at Winkfield. It was here that he tried those experiments in scientific agriculture which were compatible with the cultivation of a limited number of acres, before the era of those mechanical improvements which have now rendered the farmer a manufacturer. But whatever could be attained by diligent observation at home and in foreign countries, and by the study of foreign writers on scientific husbandry, was employed as far as possible in the routine of Mr. Rham’s own farm. Previous to writing the treatise
on Flemish Husbandry for the “Farmer’s Series” of the Useful Knowledge Society, he walked from farm to farm in Flanders during many weeks, enjoying the rough hospitality of a simple people, and, speaking their language with facility, made himself agreeable to them by the variety and extent of the knowledge which he imparted. As he returned from this tour, I met him on board a steamer, in which I had taken my passage from Antwerp; and I have a vivid recollection of the charm of his conversation, and the kindness of his attentions when I was suffering from an accident which had occurred during a journey of which I shall hereafter have occasion to speak.

Having mentioned Fellenberg’s establishment at Hofwyl, I may assume that Mr. Rham, whose mother was a Swiss, was well acquainted with the successful experiments in the education of the poor which had been carried on in the Canton of Berne for thirty-two years, when the “Penny Cyclopædia” was first published. Mr. Brougham, in his evidence before the Education Committee in 1818, gave a most interesting account of Fellenberg’s School for the Poor. In 1833 Lord Brougham wrote me a letter which appears so strikingly characteristic of his enthusiasm in the cause of education that I may venture to give a few extracts. Its object was to put me into communication with Mr. Duppa, of Hollingbourne House, Maidstone, who had recently returned from a visit to Hofwyl. “The bigots and tyrants,” says Lord Brougham, “have been prevailing so far as to get up an attack on Mr. Fellenberg’s system (and on all sound systems of education), and they have enlisted so much of the Swiss press on
their side that he considers they can only be saved by help from our own press. Mr. Fellenberg is desirous above all that the facts should be made known, and he has appealed to me. I feel so much interested in it that nothing but the inconvenience of putting the Great Seal in commission prevents me from hastening to his assistance, because if I saw with my own eyes what is doing, I know I could speedily discomfit this vile conspiracy—which eighteen years ago nearly nipt his plan in the bud. * * * * My belief is clear that an effort made now, and in time, by the press, as far as the Society has access to it, would be decisive in heading back Mr. Fellenberg’s enemies—who are chiefly the aristocratic faction in Berne, and who never will forgive him, because, being himself a patrician, he has chosen to lead the life of a schoolmaster for the good of mankind.” In concluding, Lord Brougham called upon me to do something upon this subject for the “
Penny Magazine,” during the prorogation of the Society to which Mr. Fellenberg had appealed. Mr. Duppa sent me an interesting account of his visit for the “Magazine,” and at the same period wrote a full account of Hofwyl in the “Journal of Education.”

The contributions of Mr. Rham to the “Penny Cyclopædia,” furnished a complete view of the theory and practice of agriculture up to the time of his death in 1843. But we were then within only a year or two of the greatest social change of the present generation—the entire relinquishment of the system of Protection for the home cultivator. Out of the removal of restrictions upon the importation of foreign corn and foreign cattle, have sprung up new processes, new applications of mechanical power,
new substitutions of skilled labour for unskilled, which have lifted the whole course of farming operations out of the routine of centuries into a systematic study of chemistry, of meteorology, of geology, and—of what was probably most wanting in the small acquirements of the old farmer—of Political Economy. The tentative legislation, by which the era of Free Trade in corn was heralded, filled most agriculturists with a shivering which preceded the great shock. A few of the wiser saw what was coming, and called in Science for the more efficient working of their Capital. Some twenty years ago I was travelling in a railway carriage from Hastings to Brighton, when an ancient gentleman exclaimed, “The young ’uns will all be ruined with these new-fangled inventions; my family have owned a farm in Sussex ever since the time of
William the Conqueror, and whilst I live I will work the land as my father worked it.” I presumed to ask him how it was that he rode in a railway carriage, whilst his father and grandfather so often found their lumbering conveyances stuck in the Sussex ruts as they travelled to market? The patriarch was angry, but he could not deny that he had surrendered his free-will to a base novelty.

When the “Penny Cyclopædia” was completed, early in 1844, we were only in the infancy of that vast change in the intercourse of the world which has been effected by railways. The “Cyclopædia,” as well as the “Companion to the Almanac,” kept up a systematic view of the progress of this new method of communication, upon the ultimate benefits of which many still looked with doubt, and some with a sort of horror at the innovation which seemed likely to alter many of our social relations. Especially
strong was the alarm, when, in 1844, the railway companies were required to run what is now called a Parliamentary train, at the rate of a penny a mile. It was as if the world were coming to an end, when farm servants might, at a small cost, go daily to their work out of the bounds of their own parish. When the advantages of this new legislation were first visible in the sight of a smock-frock labourer whistling in the train, I wrote: “The Railway has to raise the condition of all those who for centuries have lived remote from the nourishing influences of our growing civilisation. Rustic innocence and rustic happiness have been found out to be dreams of an age that never existed. The seats of ignorance are in the villages where never mail-horn has been heard. There live the bondmen, as much bound to the soil as the villains of the fourteenth century—bondmen without the sustenance of bondage. The railway and the steamboat, by opening markets, by saving cost of transit, assist the accumulation of agricultural capital That capital cannot be better employed than in the calling forth of skilled labour. Let labour circulate, and it must become skilled. Pen it up in hamlets, and it continues the mechanical, hopeless, dangerous thing it is now in its uncultivated state.”*

At the period of the completion of the “Cyclopædia,” we were very close upon the general application of the discovery of the most important instrument of communication that the world had seen—the Electric Telegraph. The “Penny Cyclopædia” could scarcely contemplate the wonderful ramifica-

* “The Land we Live In,” vol. i. p. 15.

tions of this marvellous invention. It could record that the first line of electric telegraphs had been laid down upon the London and Blackwall Railway; and the formation of the second line from London to West Drayton might also be referred to. How well I remember the ignorant wonder with which, travelling from Windsor to London by the Great Western, I looked upon the erection of tall posts at regular intervals along the line, and, in answer to the inquiry of a foreigner as to their use, told him I thought that they were intended for gas-lamps to light the railway. These mysterious standards were for the application of
Mr. Cooke’s patent for insulating the wires which had been previously placed in iron tubes, buried beneath the ground. How could we then have conceived that within twenty years there would be a map to the United Kingdom showing the extension of the telegraph, not only to great cities and seats of industry, but to almost every small town and to many a populous village! If this mighty power had even been confined to our own country, and used only in connection with individual affairs, how greatly would it have contributed to the interests of commerce and to the happiness of domestic life. When the railway had been pressed into the service of the new postal system, we might breakfast in London and sleep in Glasgow, after a long day’s journey, with the certainty that we could hear from our homes by the next afternoon. We have now that more comfortable assurance, that if any unforeseen event has occurred, or any circumstance been forgotten that we ought to know, we shall find a telegram on our arrival, and by the same agency our own winged words will reach our homes in half an hour.
But who in 1843 could have thought that the whole business of journalism in this country would have been utterly changed by the Electric Telegraph; that the Penny Morning Paper of Manchester would present the summary of a parliamentary debate which had been closed only a few hours earlier; that the “
Times,” and other journals, would offer to their readers, at six o’clock in the morning, as complete a report of the speeches at a midnight meeting two hundred miles away as of harangues at the same hour in Exeter Hall; and, greatest marvel of all, that, through the application of the Submarine Telegraph, whilst the battle of the dawn is still raging on the shores of the Baltic, the types which are to tell us of the progress of an undecided event are being set up in the evening in a dozen printing offices in London.