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mechanical ingenuity have been called forth, and some of the most
beautiful, delicate, and powerful machinery in existence has been
constructed. It was in overcoming these difficulties that the talent or
perseverance of Paul and Wyatt failed; the merit of conquering them, and
giving birth to a new system of manufacture, belongs to Arkwright. We
quote the following notice of his early life from Mr. Baines:—

“Richard Arkwright rose by the force of his natural talents from a very
humble condition in society. He was born at Preston, December 23, 1732,
of poor parents. Being the youngest of thirteen children, his parents
could only afford to give him an education of the humblest kind, and he
was scarcely able to write. He was brought up to the trade of a barber,
at Kirkham and Preston, and established himself in that business at
Bolton, in 1760. Having become possessed of a chemical process for
dyeing human hair, which in that day, when wigs were universal, was of
considerable value, he travelled about collecting hair, and again
disposing of it when dyed. In 1761, he married a wife from Leigh, and
the connexions he thus formed in that town are supposed to have
afterwards brought him acquainted with Highs’s experiments in making
spinning machines. He himself manifested a strong bent for experiments
in mechanics, which he is stated to have followed with so much
devotedness as to have neglected his business and injured his
circumstances. His natural disposition was ardent, enterprising, and
stubbornly persevering; his mind was as coarse as it was bold and
active, and his manners were rough and unpleasing.”

In the course of his travels in 1767, he fell in with a clockmaker,
named Kay, at Warrington, whom he employed as a workman in prosecuting
some of his mechanical experiments. Kay, according to his own account,
gave Arkwright some description of a machine contrived by one Highs, for
spinning by rollers. It is certain that from thenceforward Arkwright
abandoned his former pursuits, and applied himself, in conjunction with
Kay, to the construction of a spinning machine. One Smalley, a
liquor-merchant of Preston, assisted him with money; and the two,
fearing lest they might be endangered by a riotous spirit which had been
directed against machinery in Lancashire, went to settle at Nottingham.
There Arkwright obtained an introduction to Messrs. Need and Strutt, two
gentlemen largely engaged in the stocking manufactory, who appreciated
his talents, and entered into partnership with him. What became of Mr.
Smalley we do not hear. Arkwright took out a patent for his invention,
which was enrolled, July 15, 1769. The partners erected a mill near
Nottingham, which was turned by horse-power: but this was soon
superseded by a much larger establishment at Cromford in Derbyshire, on
the river Derwent, in which water-power was applied for the first time
to the purpose of spinning; and from that circumstance Arkwright’s
machine was called the _water-frame_.

As the difficulty of meeting the weavers’ demand for yarn had led to the
invention of machines for spinning, so the rapid manufacture of yarn
rendered it indispensable to facilitate the prior operations in
preparing the raw material. Men’s minds had been turned to this object
for some time. The operation of carding, whether wool or cotton, was at
first done with hand-cards of small size. The first improvement was the
invention of stock-cards, one of which was fixed, and the other held in
the hand, or afterwards suspended from above, so that the workman could
manage a much larger card, and prepare more cotton in a given time. The
next and main improvement was placing cards lengthways upon a cylinder,
which worked within a concave half cylinder of the same diameter. This
process was patented by Paul in 1748. But he derived no profit from
this, any more than from his former patent; and it was not until after
the improvements in spinning that the method of carding by cylinders was
brought into use. Arkwright was not the first to revive it, but he had a
great share in perfecting the carding machinery when it had been
revived. The raw cotton being carded, an extension, or rather a new
application, of the principle of spinning by rollers converted the
cardings into rovings, which again were made into yarn fit for the loom
by the water-frame, or, as it is now called in an improved form, the
_throstle_. Arkwright took out his second patent, December 16, 1775;
this included the carding machine, drawing-frame, and roving-frame, a
series of engines by which the cotton, from its raw state, was rendered
fit for the last process of spinning. We shall not attempt to explain
the construction of these elaborate machines, which can hardly be
rendered intelligible even by the help of numerous plates.

The process of turning cotton-wool into thread by machinery was thus
completed. Before we follow its effects upon Arkwright’s fortunes, it is
proper to say a few words concerning other improvements. About, or
somewhat earlier than, the time when Arkwright’s attention was first
turned to spinning, a weaver named James Hargreaves, of Stand Hill, near
Blackburn, invented a machine by which, according to the terms of the
patent, sixteen or more threads might be spun by one person at the same
time. This is the machine so well known under the name of the
_spinning-jenny_. Hargreaves’ patent was invaded, and invalidated on
technical grounds; so that his machine came rapidly into general use,
and for spinning the _weft_ was preferred to Arkwright’s water-frame,
from which it was entirely different in principle. Samuel Crompton, an
ingenious weaver resident near Bolton, between the years 1774 and 1779,
tried to unite the principles of both, and produced a machine which, on
that account, he called a _mule_. This, under different improved forms,
is the machine now generally used in spinning; but the water-frame, or
throstle, is still found to answer best for some kinds of work[11]. But
to return to the fortunes of Arkwright: the series of machines which he
invented or improved gave an amazing impulse to the cotton trade.
“Weavers could now obtain an unlimited quantity of yarn at a reasonable
price; manufacturers could use warps of cotton, which were much cheaper
than the linen warps formerly used. Cotton fabrics could be sold lower
than had ever before been known. The demand for them consequently
increased. The shuttle flew with fresh energy, and the weavers earned
immoderately high wages. Spinning-mills were erected to supply the
requisite quantity of yarn. The fame of Arkwright resounded through the
land, and capitalists flocked to him to buy his patent machines, or
permission to use them.” * * *

Footnote 11:

A third person has been mentioned as the inventor both of the jenny
and of roller-spinning, Thomas Highs, of Leigh, above-mentioned, whose
claims seem entitled to more courteous notice than they have met with
in the Edinburgh Review. There is nothing unreasonable in supposing
that both Highs and Arkwright may have heard of Wyatt’s method of
spinning by rollers, which was practised in two factories, one erected
at Birmingham, the other at Nottingham.

“The factory system in England takes its rise from this period. Hitherto
the cotton manufacture had been carried on almost entirely in the houses
of the workmen: the hand or stock-cards, the spinning-wheel, and the
loom, required no larger apartment than that of a cottage. A
spinning-jenny of small size might also be used in a cottage, and in
many instances was so used; when the number of spindles was considerably
increased, adjacent workshops were used. But the water-frame, the
carding-engine, and the other machines which Arkwright brought out in a
finished state, required both more space than could be found in a
cottage, and more power than could be applied by the human arm. Their
weight also made it necessary to place them in strongly-built mills, and
they could not be advantageously turned by any power then known but that
of water.”

“The use of machinery was accompanied by a greater division of labour
than existed in the primitive state of the manufacture; the material
went through many more processes, and of course the loss of time and the
risk of waste would have been much increased, if its removal from house
to house at every stage of the manufacture had been necessary. It became
obvious that there were several important advantages in carrying on the
numerous operations of an extensive manufacture in the same building.
Where water-power was required, it was economy to build one mill, and
put up one water-wheel, rather than several. This arrangement also
enabled the master-spinner himself to superintend every stage of the
manufacture; it gave him a greater security against the wasteful or
fraudulent consumption of the material; it saved time in the
transference of the work from hand to hand; and it prevented the extreme
inconvenience which would have resulted from the failure of one class of
workmen to perform their part, when several other classes of workmen
were dependent upon them. Another circumstance which made it
advantageous to have a large number of machines in one manufactory was,
that mechanics must be employed on the spot to construct and repair the
machinery, and that their time could not be fully occupied with only a
few machines.”

“All these considerations drove the cotton-spinners to that important
change in the economy of English manufactures, the introduction of the
factory system; and when that system had once been adopted, such were
its pecuniary advantages that mercantile competition would have rendered
it impossible, even had it been desirable, to abandon it.” (Baines,
‘History of Cotton Manufacture,’ pages 183, 185.)

It was not to be expected that Arkwright would enjoy undisturbed so
valuable a monopoly as that which he had created, and many persons
infringed his patents, in the belief that he was not the real owner of
the inventions which he claimed. An attempt was made in 1772 to set
aside his first patent for the water-frame; but this failed, and he
retained the enjoyment of that patent unquestioned till the expiration
of the fourteen years. To preserve his second patent, for the carding,
drawing, and roving machines, he brought several actions against
master-spinners, one of which, against Colonel Mordaunt, was tried in
1781, and a verdict was obtained for the defendant, setting aside the
patent. Arkwright for some time did not contest this decision. But in
1785, he made another attempt to establish his second patent before a
court of law; and in the first instance obtained a verdict in his own
favour, but on the cause being reheard, the patent was finally declared

Notwithstanding this defeat, Arkwright rapidly acquired a very large
fortune, through the magnitude of his concerns, and his industry,
penetration, and skill in business. On the dissolution of his
partnership with the Messrs. Strutt about 1783, the extensive works at
Cromford fell to his share. In 1786, he was High Sheriff of Derbyshire,
and was knighted, on occasion of presenting an address to the King. We
find no other record worth notice of the last years of his life. He
died, August 3, 1792, in his sixtieth year.

Arkwright’s originality and honesty as an inventor have been violently
impugned by Mr. Guest, in his History of the Cotton Manufacture. The
arguments on the other side may be seen in the Edinburgh Review, No. 91,
to which Guest published a reply. Mr. Baines’s History of the Cotton
Manufacture, which we have chiefly followed and largely quoted from in
this account, contains the latest and fullest account which we have seen
of Arkwright’s character and history. There appears to have been some
alloy of selfishness and disingenuousness in his disposition, some
ground for the statement of counsel in the trial of 1785: “It is a
notorious story in the manufacturing counties; all men that have seen
Mr. Arkwright in a state of opulence have shaken their heads, and
thought of these poor men, Highs and Kay, and have thought, too, that
they were entitled to some participation of the profits.” Still it
becomes us to speak with gentleness of the faults of a person to whose
talents, nationally speaking, we owe so much: and there is much to be
said in extenuation of them, in consideration of the lowness of his
original calling, of the self-complacency and sensitive jealousy common
to almost all schemers, and the fascination of wealth when it flows
largely and unexpectedly upon a man bred in extreme poverty. As an
inventor Arkwright’s merit is undeniable. Mr. Baines, who seems to have
judged calmly and impartially, assigns to him the high praise, that “in
improving and perfecting mechanical inventions, in exactly adapting them
to the purposes for which they were intended, in arranging a
comprehensive system of manufacturing, and in conducting vast and
complicated concerns, he displayed a bold and fertile mind, and
consummate judgment, which, when his want of education, and the
influence of an employment so extremely unfavourable to mental expansion
as that of his previous life, are considered, must have excited the
astonishment of mankind. But the marvellous and ‘unbounded invention,’
which he claimed for himself and which has been too readily accorded to
him—the _creative faculty_ which devised all that admirable mechanism,
so entirely new in its principles, and characteristic of the first order
of mechanical genius—which has given a new spring to the industry of the
world, and within half a century has reared up the most extensive
manufacture ever known—this did not belong to Arkwright.” * * * * * * *

“The most marked traits in the character of Arkwright were his wonderful
ardour, energy, and perseverance. He commonly laboured in his
multifarious concerns from five o’clock in the morning till nine at
night; and when considerably more than fifty years of age, feeling that
the defects of his education placed him under great difficulty and
inconvenience in conducting his correspondence, and in the general
management of his business, he encroached upon his sleep, in order to
gain an hour each day to learn English grammar, and another hour to
improve his writing and orthography! He was impatient of whatever
interfered with his favourite pursuits; and the fact is too strikingly
characteristic not to be mentioned, that he separated from his wife not
many years after his marriage, because she, convinced that he would
starve his family by scheming when he should have been shaving, broke
some of his experimental models of machinery. Arkwright was a severe
economist of time; and, that he might not waste a moment, he generally
travelled with four horses, and at a very rapid speed. His concerns in
Derbyshire, Lancashire, and Scotland, were so extensive and numerous as
to show at once his astonishing power of transacting business, and his
all-grasping spirit. In many of these he had partners, but he generally
managed in such a way that, whoever lost, he himself was a gainer. So
unbounded was his confidence in the success of his machinery, and in the
national wealth to be produced by it, that he would make light of
discussions on taxation, and say that he would pay the national debt!
His speculative schemes were vast and daring; he contemplated entering
into the most extensive mercantile transactions, and buying up all the
cotton in the world, in order to make an enormous profit by the
monopoly; and from the extravagance of some of these designs, his
judicious friends were of opinion that, if he had tried to put them in
practice, he might have overset the whole fabric of his prosperity.”


_Engraved by W. Holl._


_From a Picture in the Possession of the Publisher._

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful

_London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street._



William Cowper was born at the rectory of Berkhampstead, in
Hertfordshire, Nov. 26, 1731. He was nearly related to the noble family
of that name, his great-uncle having been chancellor and first Earl
Cowper: his grandfather, the brother of the chancellor, was a judge of
the common pleas. Cowper’s mother died before he was six years old. Soon
afterwards he was sent to a country school, from which, at the age of
nine, he was removed to Westminster. It is probable that one cause among
others of his future unhappiness was the early loss of that tender
parent, whose “constant flow of love,” beautifully acknowledged in his
verses on receiving her picture, and in many parts of his
correspondence, made a deep and lasting impression on his infant mind.
Cowper was exactly the boy to require a mother’s care. His constitution
was delicate, his mind sensitive and timid; and he discovered a tendency
to dejection, which was aggravated by the tyranny then practised at our
public schools. Quitting Westminster at eighteen, with a good character
for talent and scholarship, he went at once into an attorney’s office;
where he spent three years, according to his own account, with very
little profit. He then became a member of the Inner Temple, intending to
practise at the bar. At this period of life he amused himself with
composition, and showed a strong predilection for polite literature and
agreeable society; but he had no taste for the law, and took no pains to
qualify himself for his profession. Long afterwards he deeply lamented
the loss of time during his early manhood, and earnestly warned his
young friends against a similar error.

In 1763 Cowper was appointed to the lucrative office of reading clerk,
and clerk of the private committees of the House of Lords. The fairest
prospect of happiness now lay before him, for his union with one of his
cousins, it is said, had only been deferred until he should obtain a
satisfactory establishment. But the idea of reading in public was
intolerable to him; and he gave up this office for the less valuable one
of clerk of the journals, in which it was hoped that his personal
appearance before the House would not be required. Unfortunately it did
prove necessary that he should appear at the bar to qualify himself for
the post. “They whose spirits are formed like mine,” he thus expressed
himself in after-life, “to whom a public exhibition of themselves is
mortal poison, may have some ideas of the horrors of my situation:
others can have none.” He fought hard against this morbid feeling; but,
when the day arrived for entering upon his duties, such was his terror
and distress, that even his friends acquiesced in his abandoning the
attempt. But his mind had been disordered in the struggle, and he
shortly sank into deep religious despondency; so that it was found
necessary, in December, 1763, to place him in a lunatic asylum at St.
Albans, under the care of Dr. Cotton.

Cowper’s insanity at this period, and the grievous dejection of the last
twenty-seven years of his life, have been imputed to the so-called
gloominess of his religious tenets. From that opinion we entirely
dissent. No sense of religious abasement can be conceived able to drive
a sane man to distraction at the thought of having to appear in a public
capacity before Parliament; and Cowper’s struggles and mental distress
on that occasion were anterior to his receiving any serious impressions
of religion. Moreover, it appears certain that his recovery was due to
more encouraging views of the doctrines of the Gospel, assisted by the
kind and judicious mental, as well as bodily, treatment of Dr. Cotton.
For eight years his religion was the source of unfailing cheerfulness
and active benevolence; and after he ceased to derive pleasure from it
in his own person, he was still mild and charitable in his conduct
towards others, and his opinions concerning them. The extent of Cowper’s
mental wandering on subjects unconnected with his own spiritual state is
not perhaps generally known. A remarkable instance of it occurs in a
letter to his esteemed friend, Mr. Newton, dated October 2, 1787, from
which it appears that, during thirteen years, Cowper had entertained
doubts of Mr. Newton’s personal identity. At this latter period,
therefore, there was hallucination of mind, as well as religious gloom.
Cowper’s recovery from his first illness is dated in July, 1764; but he
remained with his friendly and beloved physician nearly a year more,
after which he took lodgings at Huntingdon, directed by the wish of
being within easy reach of his brother, who was a resident Fellow of
Benet College, Cambridge.

He soon became acquainted with a family, bearing the name of Unwin,
consisting of a clergyman, his wife and daughter, and one son, an
undergraduate of Cambridge. Struck by Cowper’s appearance, the latter
threw himself into the stranger’s way; and a feeling of mutual regard
and esteem led to Cowper’s establishing himself as a permanent inmate in
Mr. Unwin’s family in November, 1765. After the lapse of nearly two
years in tranquil happiness, the sudden death of Mr. Unwin led to the
family’s departure from Huntingdon to Olney in Buckinghamshire, in
October, 1767. But the foundation had been laid of a friendship which no
misfortune or change of circumstance could destroy; and Cowper and Mrs.
Unwin united their slender incomes, and continued to dwell under the
same roof. The first six years of their abode at Olney were spent in
domestic quiet and retirement almost unbroken, except by the society of
Mr. Newton, an eminent and exemplary divine, who was then curate on the
living. The well-known collection called the “Olney Hymns” were composed
by Cowper and Newton, for the most part, during this period. But in 1773
Cowper’s mental disease returned in the dreadful shape of religious
despondency. He conceived himself to be set apart for eternal misery:
yet amid the deep gloom produced by the loss of that spiritual happiness
which he had enjoyed since his recovery from his first illness, he was
so entirely submissive that he was accustomed to say, “If holding up my
finger would save me from endless torments, I would not do it against
the will of God;” and in accordance with the belief that his own fate
was sealed, he ceased to pray, and absented himself entirely from divine
worship. The depth of his dejection was gradually cheered by the
affectionate, watchful, and judicious care of his guardian friend, Mrs.
Unwin. One of the first signs of improvement was a desire to tame some
leverets. He was soon supplied with three, which have obtained celebrity
in prose and verse, such as no other hares have enjoyed before or since.
He tried at different times gardening, drawing, and a variety of
trifling manual occupations, as methods of diverting his thoughts from
his own miseries. “Many arts I have exercised with this view,” he says
in a letter to Mrs. King, “for which nature never designed me, though
among them were some in which I arrived at considerable proficiency, by
mere dint of the most heroic perseverance. There is not a squire in all
this country who can boast of having made better squirrel houses,
hutches for rabbits, or bird-cages, than myself; and in the article of
cabbage-nets I had no superior. But gardening was, of all employments,
that in which I succeeded best, though even in this I did not suddenly
attain perfection.” (Oct. 11, 1788.) At last he devoted himself to
writing, “a whim,” he says elsewhere, “that has served me longest and
best, and will probably be my latest.” His first volume of poems,
containing “Table Talk,” &c. was published in the summer of 1781, having
been written chiefly in the preceding winter. It was undertaken at the
instance of Mrs. Unwin, who, on his recovery from a long fit of unusual
dejection, urged him to devote his attention to a work of some extent,
and such as should require a considerable share of application and
attention. At the same time she suggested as a subject the “Progress of
Error,” which is the second piece in the volume. Cowper had already
written many of his lighter pieces, and that at the times when he was
labouring under the severest depression. He accounts for this singular
phenomenon with his peculiar and playful humour. “The mind, long wearied
with the sameness of a dull, dreary prospect, will gladly fix its eyes
on anything that may make a little variety in its contemplations, though

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