LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter VI

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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ON my return to London at the end of June, 1828, the meetings of the Useful Knowledge Society were approaching their termination for the season. Parliament was prorogued. The members of our committee had mostly left town; lawyers were on circuit; members of Parliament were looking after their local interests. But I had to keep up a tolerably active correspondence with some who took an especial interest in the works upon which I was occupied—with none more unremittingly than Mr. Brougham. Whether contending in friendly rivalry for the leadership of the Northern Circuit with Mr. Pollock, or enjoying the delicious quiet of his family home in Westmoreland, his mind was ever occupied with thoughts of the society which he had founded, and which was daily growing more important. Mr. Hill writes to me from Ambleside on the 30th of August:—“I came here with Mr. Brougham, from Lancaster, to-day. Scenery glorious of course. But I fear we talked more about diffusion of knowledge than anything else. Mr. B. is delighted with all you have done.” It was very pleasant to know that my preparations for the “Library of Entertaining Knowledge” were approved. I was chiefly engaged in writing “The Menageries,” which was a sufficient task for my faculties; for I had to learn a good deal
of the subjects upon which I was to write. But Mr. Brougham, estimating the powers of other men by his own, would have had me engage in some by-work for both of the series—the Useful and the Entertaining. I had intimated a desire to write a Life of
Alfred. With his characteristic readiness, while expressing his gratification, he suggests to me not to lose sight of one interesting part of the subject—“the ancient form of our government—there are many errors afloat in this matter.” He then states that Mr. Allen, of Holland House, has, more than all lawyers and historians, studied it deeply, and he sends me a list of Mr. Allen’s articles in the “Edinburgh Review,” on topics connected with this question. I had also given to Mr. Brougham the introductory portion of a life of Las Casas—a subject which had deeply interested me, as a very young man, when I had read in Croft’s singular volume, “Love and Madness,” that, “all things considered, Bartholomew Las Casas was perhaps the greatest man that ever existed.” Mr. Brougham writes—“I have lost sight of Las Casas. How near making a volume is it for the L. E. K.? If not. for that, there must be at least enough for a treatise in the L. U. K.” How could I let the grass grow under my feet with such an inciter to activity?

In looking back at some correspondence of September, 1828, I am enabled to form an accurate conception of the technical difficulties of producing a cheap book with excellent wood-cuts. I had arranged to have my “Menageries” illustrated with representations of animals drawn from the life. I was fortunate in securing the assistance of several rising young men, who did not disdain what, some
painters might have deemed ignoble employment. Two of these are now Royal Academicians. There were not many wood-engravers then in London; and this art was almost invariably applied to the production of expensive books, printed in the finest style. The legitimate purpose of wood-engraving was not then attained. It is essentially that branch of the art of design which is associated with cheap and rapid printing. In the costly books of the period a single woodcut introduced into a sheet to be worked off with the types, enhanced the cost of manual labour in a proportion which would now seem incredible. In engraving the wood-cuts for the “Menageries,” some attention of the artist was necessary to give his shadows the requisite force, and his lights the desired clearness, so as to meet the uniform application of the ink, and the cylindrical pressure, in the printing-machine process. It was long before this excellence could be practically attained. Without this explanation it would appear ludicrous that
Mr. Hill should write to me from Mr. Brougham’s house,—“Everybody here is in raptures with the proofs of the wood-cuts; but we have misgivings about the machine.” A sheet of my book was to be set up with the engravings in their due place, and a hundred or two were to be printed off by the rapid operation. “Mr. Loch is here,” writes Mr. Hill. “We have held a committee. He will be in London in a fortnight, quite at leisure, and anxious to attend to our affairs. He has promised to assist at Clowes’s. I hope you will succeed in assembling everybody.” “Everybody” not only meant the patentee of the machine, the wood-engraver, the stationer, the ink-maker, and
the ingenious overseer of the printing office, but as many of the committee as I could get together. Imagine a learned society thus employed! Imagine a hard-worked editor thus exhorted to interference with a printer’s proper duty! Yet such was a part of my editorial duty at a time when the great revolution in the production of books to be accomplished by the printing machine, was almost as imperfectly realised as when
Caxton first astonished England by the miracles of the printing press. We succeeded in partially overcoming the difficulties of making an illustrated volume not despicable as a work of art, and yet cheap—something very different from the lesson books with blotches called pictures, that puzzled the school-boy mind half a century ago, to distinguish what some daub was meant to delineate; “It is backed like a weasel’s,” says Brown—“or, like a whale,” says Jones—“Very like a whale,” concludes Robinson.

At this time my duties in connection with the “Library of Entertaining Knowledge” were simply those of author and editor. I had retained a proprietary interest in the Almanac and Companion, although it was published for two years by Messrs. Baldwin. But the new series was a large undertaking, from the risk of which I shrank. Again, Mr. Murray, as a publisher, was to have been associated with my labours. In November, 1828, Mr. Tooke, the treasurer of the society, informed me that Mr. Murray desired that I should send him “the form of a reduced advertisement, descriptive only of the intended volume.” The “Menageries” was then sufficiently advanced for me to comply. Before the volume was ready for publication the
proprietor of the “
Quarterly Review” took some alarm. The Society and he parted company, but upon very friendly terms. I was urged to take “at the flood” this opportunity of the “tide in the affairs of man.” I found a capitalist ready to bear his part in my new venture. I made terms with the Society, which secured to them a rent upon the copies sold of the “Library of Entertaining Knowledge.” I was again a publisher in Pall Mall East, before Midsummer, 1829, when the first volume of the “Menageries” was published. At the same period Mr. Murray issued the first volume of his “Family Library.”

The sub-committees of the Society are once more in active work when the long vacation had come to an end. The monthly meetings now regularly take place. At these periodical gatherings there is a dinner at five o’clock—a plain English dinner, at a moderate fixed charge, to which each present contributes. There is a subscription for wine. On these occasions the organisation of the Society is fully developed. The subcommittees report their proceedings; the general committee confirm them. Questions are asked; suggestions are made. The chairman conducts the proceedings with the least possible parade of words. The members express their opinions in the same quiet conversational tone. I never heard but one oration in that assembly of which so many eloquent statesmen and lawyers formed a part. That display came from a president of the Royal Academy, whose rhetoric is as forgotten a thing as his “Rhymes on Art.” Let me look back upon those pleasant meetings, at which I had generally the happiness to
be present during more than fifteen years. Let me, without confining myself to a particular session of my early years in connection with the Society, look round that social table, to call up the shadows of some whose reputations only survive, and to renew, as it were, the friendships which I have still the happiness of possessing.

The dinner is over in an hour. There has been pleasant gossip and occasional fun. A few cordial greetings have passed in the old form of the wine-pledge, which we of a past generation regret to find almost obsolete. The cloth is cleared. Mr. Coates, the secretary, moves to the side of the chairman, and there are then two hours of solid business. Subjects of science, of art, of literature, having to be discussed, the talk is sure to be improving, and occasionally amusing. The chair is generally filled by Mr. Brougham, and, in his rare absence, more frequently by the treasurer, Mr. William Tooke, than by Lord John Russell, the vice-chairman. Other members, however, are occasionally called to take the chair. Mr. Tooke was one of the founders of the Society, and was for some years an active member. He was somewhat ambitious of literary distinction, priding himself upon being one of “the family of Tooke,” his father having been known as the author of some valuable works on Russia; his brother Thomas being the eminent political economist, the historian of “Prices.” Our treasurer had somewhat harsh treatment from the critics as the biographer of Churchill. I always regarded him as a kind-hearted man of moderate abilities—somewhat fussy, not altogether disinclined to a job, and always disposed to be patronizing.


Where shall I begin with those who did not fill the offices of the Society amongst the sixty members of its committee? I cannot classify them according to their professional pursuits; for in this gathering, statesmen, lawyers, physicians, professors, not only clubbed their technical knowledge, but their various acquirements in science, in history, in art, in ancient scholarship, in modern literature. I must take the individuals somewhat at random, as they crowd upon my memory in connection with my own experience.

James Mill. I see the historian of British India, sitting near Mr. Brougham, listening to his opinions with marked attention. It always appeared to me a signal tribute to the intellectual eminence of the great orator, that the writer who, of all others, aimed most at terseness and perspicuity, should exhibit such deference to one whose reputation was built upon broader foundations than logical profundity or metaphysical subtlety. Yet so it was. Their minds were not certainly cast in the same mould; yet there must have been deep sympathies between them—as is perhaps often the case when two men of apparently opposite temperaments, and pursuing very different paths to eminence, are brought into friendly contact for a common object. Mr. Mill was too soon removed from us. To me he rendered valuable aid in the early numbers of the “Companion to the Almanac.”

Henry Hallam was one of the original promoters of the Society, of which, during many years, he was an active member. That the historian of the “Middle Ages,” was an authority in the committee cannot be doubted. He was a sedulous attendant
upon sub-committees. He read proofs diligently. In his general manner rather cold and dry, he would occasionally deliver an energetic opinion, pregnant with good sense and refined taste. I used at first to feel some shrinking from his critical faculty, but no one could be more tolerant or encouraging; and if he made objections it was generally without harshness. He was in the full possession of his high faculties when I first had the opportunity of benefiting, in a small degree, by the quiet exhibition of his varied acquirements. The great sorrow of his life had not then chilled his energy. He lived to recover, outwardly, the loss which gave occasion to the noblest elegiac poetry in our language.

I turn to a man eminent in a pursuit not less useful than that of the historian—to Francis Beaufort, the hydrographer to the Admiralty, under whose especial superintendence the Atlas of the Society attained a perfection never before realised in this country. His design of producing the most trustworthy maps at the cheapest rate, would have conferred an honourable distinction upon this Association, if it had accomplished nothing else. But Captain Beaufort (afterwards Admiral Sir Francis) did not confine himself to the duties of this great undertaking. I could always rely upon his sound judgment in discussing any project that I offered, or in the correction of proofs. No member of the committee wrote purer English. Of his unremitting kindness I had ample experience. The frankness, almost bluntness, of the sailor was never offensive, for it had the true ring of the sterling metal of an honest mind, and the unvarnished courtesy of a gentleman. Shall I place by the side of this worthy plain
dealer and plain speaker one of whom it has been said he often tried to make himself disagreeable, but never succeeded? There was no man with whom I less perfectly sympathized when I first joined the Society than
Henry Bellenden Ker; gradually I learnt to understand him. I have the happiness still to enjoy an intimacy that has endured since those early days of our intercourse—proof against banter on one side, and pettishness on the other. He was the most fertile in projects of any member of the committee. Apart from the Society, he had ever some new scheme to suggest to me as a publishing enterprise. His plans were not always practicable; but they always indicated the fertility of his mind, and the refinement of his taste. He did me incalculable good in his rough-riding when I was learning my paces in this intellectual manége. It was like the discipline which a young barrister receives on his first circuit. Not to wince under a joke; to see the kind heart and the earnest good will, ill-concealed by the levity of tongue; to find indifference growing into cordiality, and then ripening into friendship—this was my experience of a man whose ready talent, whose social aptitude, rarely failed to secure the friendship of the young and of the aged—one who was a warm politician without the bitterness of a partisan; whose companionable qualities gave pleasure to the declining vigour of Lyndhurst, and who continues, as he had begun, to be the cherished friend of Brougham.

In the present instance, as in others that will constantly occur, I find it exceedingly difficult to speak with the same freedom of the living as of the dead. Yet, looking back for more than a generation upon
the eminent persons with whom I had become acquainted, they all assume with me an aspect approaching to the historical. I run over the list of the committee prefixed to the “
British Almanac” for 1830. Of forty-five members, whose essential services in the diffusion of knowledge live in my remembrance, twenty-five are gone where “all hidden things shall be made manifest.” Yet to speak impartially, I must not pass over those who remain with us, believing that the “nil nisi verum” is a better principle to act upon either for the living or the dead than the “nil nisi bonum.”

I have already, several times, mentioned Matthew Davenport Hill as a member of the committee; and it is therefore unnecessary that I should here dwell upon the energy of his character as a diffuser of knowledge. He was one of the earliest members of the Society. His brother Rowland was elected when it was fully in action. Of modest demeanour; courteous but independent; expressing his opinions with a prudent brevity,—few could have given him credit for that unwearied industry in following out all the ramifications of a complicated question; for that power of marshalling all the possible details of a great theory which in practice resolved itself into the most complete organisation. The inventor of the Penny Postage made no eager rush to the display of an imperfect project. He felt every step of his way, and when he had ceased to have any doubt of the certainty of his convictions, he put them forth with the confidence of genius, and was ready to do battle for them with the courage which is the best pledge of victory. The young schoolmaster of Hazelwood became one of the greatest of public benefactors.


Amongst the founders of the society, Dr. Roget was, from his accepted high reputation, the most eminent of its men of science. He wrote its treatises on Electricity and on Magnetism. He was a diligent attendant on its committees; a vigilant corrector of its proofs. Of most winning manners, he was as heloved as he was respected. I met him in 1863, at an evening party, and had much talk with him about our old intercourse. Full of animation,—with undimned intelligence—his age was “as a lusty winter, frosty but kindly.” In his beaming face there could scarcely be found the traces of that hard work—made up of professional practice, of scientific writing, of secretaryship of the Royal Society, of lecturer at the Royal Institution,—which he had gone through since he graduated in medicine at Edinburgh in 1798. Upon all questions of Physiology, Peter Mark Roget and Charles Bell are the great authorities in the Useful Knowledge Society. No higher service could have been rendered to the association in its early stages than Mr. Bell’s contribution to its treatises. His “Animal Mechanics” is a model of popular writing upon subjects which demand high scientific knowledge. This charming production was published in 1828. At that time there was another member of the medical profession—one, however, unconnected with our Society—who also contributed most effectually to disperse the belief that science could only be taught in the use of technical language;—that the uninitiated in the technicalities had better not attempt to comprehend the mysteries of that temple where there was scant room for the worship of the multitude. Dr. Neil Arnott, in 1827, published the first portion of his
Elements of Physics; or Natural Philosophy, General and Medical, explained in plain or nontechnical language.” Never was book more popular; never was the completion of any undertaking more anxiously looked for. The first volume of the “Sixth and Completed Edition” reaches me while I write this chapter. It is a presentation copy from one who for five-and-thirty years has won the love and gratitude of me and mine, as the wise physician and the hearty friend. I could not forego this digression from the matters more immediately before me.

The Useful Knowledge committees, as I have looked upon these monthly assemblages, present the aspect of something higher than toleration—a cordial union of men of very different persuasions in religion, who have met upon a common platform for the advancement of knowledge, to which religion can never be opposed. Let me group three representatives of opinions that appear as far removed as possible from amalgamation. Dr. Maltby, a great classical scholar, the preacher at Lincoln’s Inn, the future bishop, first of Chichester, and then of Durham, is a dignified representative of the Church of England. He is zealous for the welfare of the Useful Knowledge Society, of which he was one of the earliest members. He will do its work assiduously and carefully. He will not insist upon religious topics being thrust in amongst secular. He will not stickle for the due honour of the Established Church. How can he do either? By his side, it may be, sits Mr. Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, the wealthy Jew, whose ambition, as that of the Rothschilds and of other men of large property and unimpeachable loyalty, is to have a voice in the British Parliament.
Mr. Goldsmid is a man of something more than business talent; good tempered; not obtruding the pride of riches; hospitable.
Mr. William Allen, the Quaker, may form the third in this group. I have often called on him at his old place of business in Plough Court, where, a practical chemist, he had been a thriving tradesman, and at the same time a Fellow of the Royal Society and a valuable contributor to its transactions. He well merited the honour of his countrymen for other qualities than his scientific acquirements. He was a liberal promoter of every public scheme of benevolence. He established upon his estate at Lindfield, in Sussex, after he withdrew from the cares of a commercial life, schools for boys, girls, and infants,—real schools of industry, where agriculture was taught, as well as many useful arts. Whilst the children had every opportunity for acquiring health in recreation, and improvement in a good library, he built cottages for the labourers of his village, such as ought to have shamed many a landowner out of his neglect. The memory of this good man is to me fresh and fragrant.

There was perhaps no society in England, with the exception of the Royal Society, which could present such a knot of young men of high promise as were assembled at our committees in the earliest stages of their organisation. Mr. John William Lubbock, the only child of the eminent city banker, assiduously followed his father’s calling, whilst he was attaining the highest reputation as a mathematician. In 1825 he had graduated as M.A. at Cambridge. In 1828 he was rendering me the most important assistance in the preparation of the “British Almanac.” For several years he worked
with the heartiest zeal at this apparently humble contribution to the objects of the Society. But the occupation was not a humble one, for he was practically developing his investigations upon the Tides, which subject formed several papers in the
Philosophical Transactions. Devoting himself with the same readiness to superintend the astronomical portion of the British Almanac, I was also brought into intercourse with Mr. John Wrottesley, afterwards Lord Wrottesley, and President of the Royal Society. He was a member of the bar. Mr. Benjamin Malkin—afterwards Sir Benjamin, when he accepted a high judicial appointment in India, and there too soon closed his valuable life—devoted his great talents and acquirements with indefatigable industry to the business of our committee. His forte was mathematics. His brother Arthur was elected to the committee a few years after, and in several departments rendered essential service as a writer and editor. Mr. T. F. Ellis, the friend and executor of Macaulay, had many opportunities, in the revision of the Society’s works, to exercise his acute critical faculty. Mr. Lefevre (now Sir John) was also one of the distinguished Cambridge graduates who gave to the Useful Knowledge Society the prestige of their academical honours.

The University of London (as the College was then called) numbered amongst its Professors some of the ablest members of our committee. Amongst the first of those who joined the Society was Mr. George Long. In subsequent “Passages,” I shall have so frequently to mention his name, as one of the most important of my associates, that it will be scarcely necessary for me here to do more than allude to his unequalled
industry, his rich scholarship, his sound judgment, which very soon gave him his right position amongst the eminent persons by whom he was surrounded.
Mr. De Morgan became a member somewhat later. I first saw him in 1830. The occasion will arise for mentioning the eminent services he rendered to the works in which I have been engaged. Mr. Key, and Mr. Malden, about the same period commenced their distinguished career as teachers of youth, and very soon also devoted their unprofessional services to the general diffusion of knowledge.

Mr. Leonard Horner was the Warden of the London University, when he became a member of the Useful Knowledge committee. In their early stages the new preparatory institution “for affording to young men adequate opportunities for obtaining literary and scientific education at a moderate expense;” and the new society for “imparting useful information to all classes of the community,” were considered by many to be engaged in a co-partnership for the political and theological corruption of youths and adults. In some arrangements prescribed by a rigid economy in the finances of each, they did appear to carry on their operations in concert. Thus, when I first attended in Percy Street to read manuscripts and proofs, I had to thread my way up a staircase, on the walls of which Dr. Lardner was hanging models for the illustration of his approaching Lectures on Mechanics. As a necessary consequence, the council of the University, and the committee of the Society, had several members in common. Mr. Horner was not only surrounded with the reflection of his eminent brother’s fame, but had that brother’s testimony, in
his published letters, to the interest which young Leonard, as early as 1811, took in the education of the people. How well he was qualified for popular instruction was shown by an admirable series of articles on “The Mineral Kingdom” which he contributed to the “
Penny Magazine.” How ardently and unremittingly he strove to elevate the condition, and provide for the health of the Working Classes, has been manifested by his labours as a Factory Commissioner.

I am still hovering round the remembrance of the earlier members of the Society, whose literary or scientific qualifications gave the assurance that no publication would go forth, deformed by the inaccuracies of superficial information. In a volume written by me ten years ago, I have expressed my opinion upon the system pursued in our committees:—“From the time when the Society commenced a real ‘superintendence’ of works for the people—when it assisted, by diligent revision and friendly inquiry, the services of its editors—the old vague generalities of popular knowledge were exploded; and the scissors-and-paste school of authorship had to seek for other occupations than Paternoster Row could once furnish. Accuracy was forced upon elementary books as the rule and not the exception. Books professedly ‘entertaining’ were to be founded upon exact information, and their authorities invariably indicated. No doubt this superintendence in some degree interfered with the free course of original composition, and imparted somewhat of the utilitarian character to everything produced. But it was the only course by which a new aspect could be given to cheap literature, by
showing that the great principles of excellence were common to all books, whether for the learned or the uninformed.”* To accomplish such real superintendence there were the services at hand, in the department that may be broadly characterised as Natural History, of
Mr. Daniel, in Meteorology; of Mr. De La Beche, in Geology; of Mr. Vigors, in Zoology; and of Dr. Anthony Todd Thomson, in Botany and Vegetable Physiology. With each of these gentlemen I was, in various labours, brought into pleasant and profitable intercourse. I was in more direct and constant intimacy with Mr. William Coulson, the translator of Blumenbach’sComparative Anatomy.” In the composition of my little book on “Menageries,” I could always apply, in cases of doubt, to his technical information, and to the wide range of the scientific knowledge of Mr. Vigors. The aid which Dr. Conolly rendered to the diffusion of knowledge was not special or professional. In those departments of what we now call “social science,” which include the public health in its largest sense, his experience was always working in companionship with his benevolence. In 1831 we were united in the production of a series which was directly addressed to the working classes. Dr. Conolly brought to this useful labour—of which I shall have to make more particular mention—a lucid style, and an accurate conception of the true mode of reaching the uneducated. “Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar,” is as good a maxim for a popular writer, as for a young courtier going forth into the world, to deal with all sorts and conditions of men.

* “The Old Printer and the Modern Press.” Murray. 1854.


We had many lawyers on the committee. I have mentioned several who were distinguished for their remarkable scientific qualifications. Others of the bar were accomplished scholars. But no one displayed a more elegant taste than John Herman Merivale. His translations from the Greek Anthology, and from the minor poems of Schiller, have not been condemned to that oblivion which attends the greater number of poetical attempts. The purity and elegance of the whole mind of Mr. Merivale is reflected in his poems. Courteous and sympathizing, I look back upon my occasional intercourse with him with respect almost bordering upon affection. Mr. George Cornewall Lewis brought his various high qualifications to the service of the Society at a later period, when he became a contributor to its publications. I mention him among the lawyers, for before he joined the Useful Knowledge committee he had been called to the bar. Of the elder lawyers, no one was more valuable to the society than Mr. James Manning—perhaps the most profound of the historical and antiquarian lawyers of his time. His accurate information upon many abstruse legal matters was amply displayed when he became one of the most important contributors to the “Penny Cyclopædia.” Mr. David Jardine was also a most useful contributor to the legal department of the Cyclopaedia, and was the author of “Criminal Trials,” published in the Library of Entertaining Knowledge—a valuable contribution to our constitutional history. Let me not omit to mention the youngest of the lawyers amongst us—Mr. Thomas Falconer, who was called to the bar in 1830. He inherited literary. tastes, and was an acute as well as a modest critic
upon the unpublished volumes and articles that were submitted for his revision.

Mr. John Wood (afterwards chairman of the Inland Revenue) was at the bar. He was skilful in financial and statistical matters, and greatly assisted in a vigilant administration of the Society’s pecuniary affairs. Of a higher character of mind was Mr. James Loch, the auditor for the management of the vast properties of the Duke of Sutherland and Lord Francis Egerton. He had a hard battle to sustain against that class of philanthropists who contended that the removal of a wretched cottier tenantry by emigration, to make room for the influences of capital, was harsh and unfeeling. Mr. Loch vindicated his measures with signal ability. The time was to come when the Irish famine would teach us what a happiness it was for the Highlands, that there was a man who had the courage to carry out his just conceptions of the duty of a great landed proprietor. Some years of cordial intercourse with Mr. James Loch satisfied me that a sound benevolence, combined with a clear intellect, was the basis of his character.

I have finally to turn to a knot of men, eminent in the political annals of our country. They might at first view be regarded as the Corinthian capitals of our edifice. But this would only be a half-truth. Lord John Russell, Lord Auckland, Lord Althorp, Mr. Denman, Mr. Spring Rice, Sir Henry Parnell, were always ready to work as members of our committee, even after they had been called to the highest offices of the State. After the Reform era I have sat at the monthly dinner with five Cabinet Ministers, to whom it appeared that their duty was
to carry forward that advancing intelligence of the people which had conducted them to power, and which would afford the best security that liberal opinions and democratic violence should not be in concert, as the “one increasing purpose” was working out the inevitable changes of society and government. The first poet of the generation that was immediately to follow them has probably shadowed out the convictions that made Ministers of State zealous educationists:
“Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.”

It was not only in the meetings of our committees that I had the advantage, for my editorial guidance, of the opinions of men of accurate minds and sound information; but I was frequently also in correspondence with those who took a more than common interest in particular works. Such a work was that well-known contribution to the “Library of Entertaining Knowledge,” which first established the reputation of Mr. George Lillie Craik as a sound thinker and an accomplished writer. To myself, individually, the recollection of that autumn of 1828 is especially dear, for it saw the commencement of an intimacy which ripened into the unbroken friendship of six-and-thirty years. In the preliminary stages of discussion on the objects and mode of treatment of a book such as this, which was to embrace a vast number of illustrative anecdotes of the love of knowledge overcoming the opposition of circumstances, there were necessarily different estimates of the value of scientific and literary studies, whether “for
use,” or “for delight,” or “for ornament.” The great distinction between the love of knowledge for its own sake, and the love of knowledge as the means of worldly advancement, may be traced very distinctly in the two popular volumes of Mr. Craik, and the equally popular “
Self Help” of Mr. Smiles. Mr. Craik’s views upon this cardinal point are very clearly expressed in a letter written to me by him in the autumn of 1829, but having no date except the day of the week (a very perplexing custom for the historian or biographer). His views are so interesting, that I make no apology for the length of the quotation:—

“Our concern, it appears to me, is neither with individuals who have in any way been exalted from one region of society to another, nor even with such as have been chiefly the authors of their own exaltation,—for the fact of their exaltation is not at all the one upon which we wish to fix attention, even although we should make it out to have been in every case the consequence of their abilities and attainments. What, then, is our subject? Not the triumphs of genius, nor of perseverance, nor even of perseverance in the pursuit of knowledge, because it is not the success of the effort, at least in a gross and worldly sense, we would point attention to; nor is it by any means what is called genius to which we are exclusively to confine ourselves, while we still less mean to include every species of perseverance. But we want a category which shall embrace, for example, the cases at once of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, of Franklin, of all, in short, who, whether in humble or in high life, have pursued knowledge with ardour, and distinctly
evidenced, by the seductions they resisted or the difficulties they encountered and overcame for her sake, that she was the first object of their affections; and that the pursuit of her, even without any reference to either the wealth, the power, or the distinction, which she might bring them, was, in their estimation, its own sufficient reward. It appears to me, then, clearly, that our title must be, not Anecdotes of Self-taught Genius at all, for that is greatly too limited, but Anecdotes of the Love of Knowledge—that being, in truth, the one distinction which we find common to all the examples we would embrace, as well as the disposition which we mean chiefly to excite and foster.”

Mr. Craik had written a preliminary dissertation, in the sound views of which Mr. Brougham expressed himself to me as generally coinciding. But in a portion of a letter, dated from Westmoreland in September, 1828, (and I judge, therefore, to have preceded by a month or two the letter from Mr. Craik which I have quoted,) Mr. Brougham takes a different view of the range of such a work as that proposed: “His (Mr. Craik’s) idea of the line to be drawn as to self-educated men in modern times, is also quite correct; but we must, nevertheless, confine the examples to cases which are quite plainly those of men who have greatly altered their situation by force of merit. As Watt, Arkwright, Franklin, Burns, Bloomfield, Mendelssohn—making the ground of division or classification self-exaltation rather than self-education, though they often will coincide. This field is quite large enough for one book; but the work might be followed by another comprehending the rest of it, and including all self-taught
Genius in the larger sense. To give an example—I should certainly exclude
Newton, though, like Pascal, he taught himself mathematics; also Granville Sharpe, though he raised himself by his merit to great fame; but he was grandson of the Archbishop of York, and could not be said to alter his station in life. I look forward to Mr. Craik’s labours as of the greatest use to the Society, and to the good cause; having the greatest confidence in his sound principles, and a very high opinion of his talents.”

This interesting discussion was continued between Mr. Brougham, Mr. Hill, Mr. Craik, and myself, till it was seen how the opposite views could be resolved into a general agreement. I have before me Mr. Brougham’s proof of Mr. Craik’s first volume. To Mr. Brougham is to be assigned the merit of giving to the book in this proof the title which has come to be one of the commonest forms of speech:

The Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties.”

The title originally stood,—

The Love of Knowledge overcoming Difficulties in its Pursuit.”