FARADATS LIFE AND LETTERS.
LONDON : 1'llINTJU B5T
SPOTTISWOODK AND CO., IflflV-STBEET 3QUA.RB
AND PARLIAMENT STKEL'T
aPiotograph by Maun
London. longmans fc C
LIFE AND LETTERS
A E A D A Y
DR. BENCE JONES,
IN TWO VOLUMES.
SECOND EDITION, REVISED.
LONGMANS, GEEEN, AND CO.
The right of translation it reserved.
THE SECOND EDITION.
IN CONSEQUENCE of suggestions in letters and in reviews,
some changes have been made in this edition.
Very little new matter has been added ; but some
letters have been left out ; and other letters, and some
of the lectures and journals have been shortened.
Two or three errors, which came from misapprehen-
sions in conversation, have been corrected.
The most important mistake relates to the loaf of
bread which Faraday had weekly when nine years old.
I wrongly understood that it came from the temporary
help which was given to the working class in London
during the famine of 1801. I was too easily led into
this error by my wish to show the height of the rise
of Faraday by contrasting it with the lowliness of his
starting point. I ought to have been content with the
few words which he wrote. "My education was of
the most ordinary description, consisting of little more
than the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic,
at a common day school. My hours out of school
were passed at home" (in the mews) " and in the
Vi PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
This leaves no doubt that Faraday rose from that
large class which lives by the hardest muscular labour,
and can give but little for mental food ; and yet by his
own brain-work he became in his day the foremost of
that small class which, by the mind alone, makes the
glory of humanity.
H. B. J.
March 18th, 1870.
THE FIRST EDITION.
To WRITE a life of FARADAY seemed to me at first a
hopeless work. Although I had listened to him as a
lecturer for thirty years and had been with him
frequently for upwards of twenty years, and although
for more than fifteen years he had known me as one
of his most intimate friends, yet my knowledge of him
made me feel that he was too good a man for me to
estimate rightly, and that he was too great a philo-
sopher for me to understand thoroughly. I thought
that his biographer should if possible be one who was
his own mental counterpart.
I afterwards hoped that the Journals, which he
wrote at different periods whilst abroad, might have
been published separately. If this had been done,
then some portions of his biography would have been
iii his own writing : but it was thought undesirable to
divide the records of the different parts of his life.
As time went on, and those who were most interested
in the work found no one with sufficient leisure to
whom they were inclined to give his manuscripts, I at
last made the attempt to join together his own words,
viii PEEFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
and to form them into a picture of his life which may
almost be looked upon as an autobiography.
My first work was to read his manuscripts; and
then to collect from his friends all the letters and
notes that were likely to be of interest. And here, in
duty bound, I must first thank Mrs. Faraday and her
nieces Miss Barnard and Miss Eeid for their help ;
then his earliest friend Mr. Abbott, whose collection
of letters was priceless ; then his friends M. Auguste
de la "Rive and the late Professor Schonbein. I am
also indebted to Madame Matteucci, Miss Moore, Miss
Magrath, Miss Phillips, Dr. Tyndall, Dr. Percy, Col.
Yorke, the late Eev. John Barlow, and to many others.
From his letters, his laboratory note-books, his
lecture-books, his Trinity House and other manu-
scripts, I have arranged the materials for a memorial
of Faraday in the simplest order, with the least con-
I have, however, with permission, used some of the
admirable summaries published by Dr. Tyndall, in his
account of ' Faraday as a Discoverer.'
H. B. J.
October 18th, 1869.
THE FIKST VOLUME.
1791-1812. To JET. 21. PAGK
EARLY LIFE ERRAND BOY AND BOOKBINDER'S APPRENTICE . . 1
1812-1813. To JET. 22.
JOURNEYMAN BOOKBINDER AND CHEMICAL ASSISTANT AT THE
ROYAL INSTITUTION 39
1813-1815. To JET. 24.
EXTRACTS FROM HIS JOURNAL AND LETTERS WHILST ABROAD
WITH SIR HUMPHRY DAVY 73
1815-1819. To JET. 28.
EARLIER SCIENTIFIC EDUCATION AT THE ROYAL INSTITUTION-
FIRST LECTURES AT THE CITY PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY FIRST
PAPER IN THE 'QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF SCIENCE' . . . 180
1820-1830. To JET. 39.
HIGHER SCIENTIFIC EDUCATION AT THE INSTITUTION MARRIAGE
FIRST PAPER IN THE 'PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS' . . 27C
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
FARADAY (JULY 27, 1857) WITH HIS HEAVY GLASS THAT SHOWED
'THE ACTION OP MAGNETISM ON LIGHT' . . frontispiece
CLAPHAM WOOD HALL, YORKSHIRE, AS IT WAS . . . page 2
CLAPHAM WOOD HALL AS IT NOW IS 3
JACOB'S WELL MEWS, THE EARLY HOME OF FARADAY, AS IT
NOW is 7
THE BOOKBINDER'S SHOP IN BLANDFORD STREET AS IT WAS . . 9
LIFE OF FARADAY.
EA.RLY LIFE ERRAND BOY AND BOOKBINDER'S APPRENTICE.
THE village of Clapham, in Yorkshire, lies at the foot
of Ingleborough, close to a station of the Leeds and
Lancaster Railway. Here the parish register between
1708 and 1730 shows that ' Eichard ffaraday ' recorded
the births of ten children. He is described as of
Keasden, stonemason and tiler, a ' separatist ; ' and he
died in 1741. No earlier record of Faraday's family
can be found.
It seems not unlikely that the birth of an eleventh
child, Eobert, in 1724, was never registered. Whether
this Eobert was the son or nephew of Eichard cannot
be certainly known : however, it is certain that lie
married Elizabeth Dean, the owner of Clapham Wood
This Hall was of some beauty, and of a style said to
be almost peculiar to the district between Lancaster,
Kirkby Lonsdale, and Skipton. The porch had a gable-
end and ornamented lintel with the initials of the
builder (the proprietor) ; and the windows, with three or
four mullions and label or string-course, had a very
good effect. It was partly pulled down some twenty
VOL. I. B
LIFE OF FARADAY.
years ago, and a common sort of farm-house built in
It is now little better than a stone cottage. The
door opens directly into a kitchen, nagged with four
large flags. What remains of the old Hall is, if
CLAPHAM WOOD HALL WITH MILL AS IT WAS.
anything, meaner than the dwelling itself. At this
Hall Eobert and Elizabeth Faraday lived, and had ten
children, whose names and birthdays, and callings in
after life, so far as they are known, were these :
' Richard, born June 16, 1757, was an innholder, slater, grocer.
John, born May 19, 1759, was a fanner.
James, born May 8, 1761, was a blacksmith.
Robert, born February 3, 1763, was a packer in a flax mill.
fl -B p Elizabeth, born June 27, 1765.
2 i ^ 1 Willi a m , born April 20, 1767, died in July 1791.
Jane, born April 27, 1769.
Hannah, born August 16, 1771.
Thomas, born November 6, 1773, kept a shop.
\ Barnabas, whose birthday is not known, was a shoemaker.
The first insight into this large family comes in the
year when Faraday was born, through William, who
died when he was twenty-four years old, at Clapham
Wood Hall. Faraday's grandmother then wrote a
letter to Anne Fordyce, to whom her son William
CLAPHAM WOOD HALL AS IT IS.
was engaged to be married. This letter shows the
nature and strength of the religious feeling in the
family for two generations previous to the birth of
< Clapham Wood Hall, July 4, 1791.
' Dear Nancy, With a troubled mind I write this
to you. My dear son is dead. He died on the Sab-
bath in the evening at seven o'clock. Now, my dear
love, I beg you would hear me what I have to say,
and be sober. It hath been a great concern on Wil-
liam's mind about you : he was afraid you would feel
LIFE OF FARADAY.
to an extreme, and it troubled him very much : from
this consideration he strove to make all things look as
well as he could, and he had some hope within a little
of his death that he happen might mend, which is very
natural for all people.
' When William began to be worse, he began to be
concerned about his everlasting welfare. He sent for
Mr. Grorrel and confessed the faith in Christ, and gave
Mr. Gorrel and the rest of the brethren great satisfac-
i William was exceedingly comfortable, and rejoiced
exceedingly. He then sent for his clothes, and he
thought he would go to Wenning Bank, and join the
brethren in public ; but both we and the brethren saw
there was no chance, but they came to visit him very
frequently. I cannot, in a little compass, tell you all
that William said, but he rejoiced exceedingly.
' Now, my dear love, I hope you will consider that
Providence knows better than we, and I hope this
account will serve in some measure to reconcile you,
and I shall be very glad to hear from you.
' My children all give their kind love to you. From
your affectionate, well-wishing
4 ELIZABETH FARADAY.'
The brethren were members of a Sandemanian con-
gregation. The Glasites are said once to have had
a chapel at Clapham, with a burial ground attached
to it. At present the chapel is converted into a barn,
and the windows are walled up. The unconsecrated
burial ground is thrown open to the fields, but one
or two headstones still remain against the wall of the
Several of these congregations were formed in dif-
ferent parts of England by the writings and preaching
of Eobert .Sandeman, the son-in-law of the Eeverend
John Glas, a Presbyterian clergyman in Scotland.
Thus the Church in London was formed in 1760. In
1763 the congregation at Kirkby Stephen numbered
between twenty and thirty persons. Sandeman ulti-
mately went to America to make his views known, and
he died there in 1771.
In 1728 Glas was deposed by the Presbyterian
Church Courts, because he taught that the Church
should be subject to no league nor covenant, but be
governed only by the doctrines of Christ and His
Apostles. He held that Christianity never was, nor
could be, the established religion of any nation without
becoming the reverse of what it was when first insti-
tuted ; that Christ did not come to establish any worldly
power, but to give a hope of eternal life beyond the
grave to His people whom He should choose of His
own sovereign will ; that the Bible, and that alone,
with nothing added to it nor taken away from it by
man, was the sole and sufficient guide for each indi-
vidual, at all times and in all circumstances ; that faith
in the divinity and work of Christ is the gift of God,
and that the evidence of this faith is obedience to the
commandments of Christ.
There are two points of practice in the Church which,
in relationship to the Life of Faraday, must be men-
tioned. One of these is the admission into the Church,
the other is the election of elders.
Members are received into the Church on the con-
fession of sin, and the profession of faith in the death
and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This profession must
LIFE OF FARADAY.
be made before the Church in public. The elders first,
and afterwards the other members, ask such questions
as they think are necessary to satisfy the Church.
Prayer is then offered up, a blessing is invoked upon
the person received, and he is heartily welcomed and
loved for the sake of the truth he has professed.
There must be a plurality of elders (presbyters or
bishops) in each Church, and two must be present at
every act of discipline. When a vacancy occurs, the
elders suggest for election to the congregation one of
its members who appears to answer the description of
an elder in the New Testament. The election is made
by the whole Church unanimously. Earnestness of
feeling and sincerity of conviction are the sole requisites
for the office, which is entirely unpaid.
With regard to other members of the large family
that were born at Clapham Wood Hall, it is known
that Faraday's uncle John had a quarry among the
hills, and erected a shielding for the use of the mem
which in some maps is marked as Faraday House, and
the gill which runs by it, in the map of the Ordnance
Survey of Westmoreland, is called Faraday Gill. His
uncle Thomas was the father of Thomas Armat Faraday,
who is now a draper and grocer at Clapham. His
father James, who was a blacksmith, was married in
1786 to Margaret Hastwell, a farmer's daughter of Mal-
lestang, near Kirkby Stephen. To James and Margaret
Faraday four children were born :
James; born 1761, died 1810, r Elizabeth, born 1787.
married 1780 Margaret) Eobert, bora 1788.
Hastwell, bora 1764, died 1 Michael, bom 1791.
1838. I Margaret, born 1802.
James soon after his marriage came to London, and
lived at Newington, in Surrey, where his third child,
Michael, was born on September 22, 1791. For a
short time his home was in Gilbert Street ; but about
1796 he moved to rooms over a coach-house in Jacob's
Well Mews, Charles Street, Manchester Square : he
HOUSE IN JACOB'S WELL MEWS.
then worked as a journeyman at Boyd's in Welbeck
Street. He joined the Sandemanian Church after he
came to London. H-is wife, though one of the congrega-
tion, never became a member of the Church.
During the distress of 1801, when corn was above
8 LIFE OF FARADAY.
!8Ql. 9Z. the quarter, Michael, who was nine years old, was
JET. 9-10. given by his parents^one loaf weekly, and it had to last
him for that time.
In 1807 James wrote to his brother Thomas at
Clapham 'I am sorry to say I have not had the
pleasure of enjoying one day's health for a long time.
Although I am very seldom off work for a whole day
together, yet I am under the necessity (through pain)
of being from work part of almost every day.' . . .
And then, after speaking of some Church matters, he
says ' But we, perhaps, ought to leave these matters
to the overruling hand of Him who has a sovereign
right to do what seemeth good to Him, both in the
armies of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the
On July 29, 1809, he wrote to the same brother
4 1 never expect to be clear of the pain completely with
which I am afflicted, yet I am glad to say that I am
somewhat better than I formerly was. . . .
' We are about to remove very shortly, so that you
will be good enough to direct your next as follows
18 Weymouth Street, near Portland Place, London.'
There he died on October 30, 1810.
Faraday's mother died in Islington, in March 1838.
' She was very proud of her son ; so much so, that
Faraday asked his wife not to talk to his mother so
much about him or his honours, saying she was quite
proud enough of him, and it would not be good for
her. Usually she called him " my Michael." She
would do nothing whatever without his advice, and
was quite contented and happy in being supported
wholly by him in her declining years. She had not
had any advantages of education, nor was she able to
enter at all into her son's pursuits. She was parti-
cularly neat and nice in her household arrangements,
and exerted herself to the utmost for her husband and
The home of Michael Faraday was in Jacob's Well
Mews from the time he was five years old until he
went to Blandford Street. Very little is known of his
life during these eight years. He himself has pointed
out where he played at marbles in Spanish Place, and
OLD VIEW OF RIEBAITS SHOP.
where, at a later period, he took care of his little sister
in Manchester Square. He says, ' My education was of
the most ordinary description, consisting of little more
than the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic
at a common day-school. My hours out of school
were passed at home and in the streets.'
1() LIFE OF FARADAY.
1804. Only a few yards from Jacob's Well Mews is a book-
;&r.i'2-i3. seller's shop, at No. 2 Blandford Street.
There Faraday went as errand boy, on trial for a
year, to Mr. George Eiebau, in 1804. He has spoken
with much feeling ' that it was his duty, when he first
went, to carry round the papers that were lent out by
his master. Often on a Sunday morning he got up
very early and took them round, and then he had to
call for them again ; and frequently, when he was told
the paper was not done with, " You must call again,"
LP would beg to be allowed to have it; for his next
place might be a mile off, and then he would have to
return back over the ground again, losing much time,
and being very unhappy if he was unable to get home
to make himself neat, and to go with his parents to
their place of worship.'
He says, ' I remember being charged with being a
great questioner when young, but I do not know the
nature of the questions.' One instance, however, has
been preserved. Having called at a house, possibly* to
leave a newspaper, whilst waiting for the door to be
opened, he put his head through the iron bars that
made a separation from the adjoining house; and,
whilst in this position, he questioned himself as to
which side he was on. The door behind him bein" 1
opened, he suddenly drew back, arid, hitting himself
so as to make his nose bleed, he forgot all about his
In after life the remembrance of his earliest occupa-
tion was often brought to his mind. One of his nieces
says that he rarely saw a newspaper boy without
making some kind remark about him. Another niece
recalls his words on one occasion, 4 I always feel a
HIS APPRENTICESHIP. 11
tenderness for those boys, because I once carried news- 18 9 -
papers myself.' Mt.n-is.
Faraday's indentures as an apprentice are dated
October 7, 1805 : one line in them is worthy to be
kept ' In consideration of his faithful service no pre-
mium is given.'
Four years later his father wrote (in 1809), ' Michael
is bookbinder and stationer, and is very active at
learning his business. He has been most part of four
years of his time out of seven. He has a very good
master and mistress, and likes his place well. He had
a hard time for some while at first going ; but, as the
old saying goes, he has rather got the head above water,
as there is two other boys under him.'
Faraday himself says, ' Whilst an apprentice I loved
to read the scientific books which were under my
hands, and, amongst them, delighted in Marcet's
" Conversations in Chemistry," and the electrical trea-
tises in the " Encyclopaedia Britannica." I made such
simple experiments in chemistry as could be defrayed
in their expense by a few pence per week, and also
constructed an electrical machine, first with a glass
phial, and afterwards with a real cylinder, as well as
other electrical apparatus of a corresponding kind/
He told a friend that Watts l On the Mind ' first made
him think, and that his attention was turned to science
by the article ' Electricity ' in an encyclopaedia he was
employed to bind.
' My master,' he says, ' allowed me to go occasionally
of an evening to hear the lectures delivered by Mr.
Tatum on natural philosophy at his house, 53 Dorset
Street, Fleet Street. I obtained a knowledge of these
12 LIFE OF FARADAY.
1810. lectures by bills in the streets and shop-windows near
^18^19. his house. The hour was eight o'clock in the evening.
The charge was one shilling per lecture, and my brother
Robert (who was three years older and followed his
father's business) made me a present of the money for
several. I attended twelve or thirteen lectures between
February 19, 1810, and September 26, 1811. It was
at these lectures I first became acquainted with Magrath,
Newton, Nicol, and others.'
He learned perspective of Mr. Masquerier, 1 that he
might illustrate these lectures. 'Masquerier lent me
Taylor's " Perspective," a 4to volume, which I studied
closely, copied all the drawings, and made some other
very simple ones, as of cubes or pyramids, or columns
in perspective, as exercises of the rules. I was always
very fond of copying vignettes and small things, in ink ;
but I fear they were mere copies of the lines, and that
I had little or no sense of the general effect and of the
power of the lines in producing it.'
In his earliest note-book he wrote down the names
of the books and subjects that interested him : this he
called ' " The Philosophical Miscellany," being a col-
lection of notices, occurrences, events, &c., relating
to the arts and sciences, collected from the public
papers, reviews, magazines, and other miscellaneous
works ; intended,' he says, ' to promote both amuse-
ment and instruction, and also to corroborate or in-
validate those theories which are continually starting
1 Mr. Masquerier was probably a lodger in Mr. Riebau's house. In
Crabb Robinson's Memoirs (vol. iii. p. 375, dated Feb. 18, 1851)
it is written, * At Masquerier's, Brighton. We had calls soon after break-
fast. The one to be mentioned was that of Faraday. When he was
young, poor, and altogether unknown, Masquerier was kind to him ;
and now that he is a great man he does not forget his old friend.'
HIS FIRST BOOKS AND WRITINGS. 13
into the world of science. Collected by M. Faraday, isii.
Among the books and subjects which are mentioned
in this volume are, ' Description of a Pyropneumatic
Apparatus,' and ' Experiments on the Ocular Spectra
of Light and Colours,' by Dr. Darwin, from Ackermaris
Repository ; ' Lightning,' and ' Electric Fish and
Electricity,' from Gentleman's Magazine-, 'Meteorolites,'
from the Evangelical Magazine ; ' Water Spouts,'
from the Zoological Magazine ; ' Formation of Snow,'
from Sturm's Reflections; 'To loosen Glass Stopples,'
from the Lady's Magazine ; ' To convert two Liquids
into a Solid,' ' Oxygen Gas,' Hydrogen Gas,' Nitric
and Carbonic Acid Gas,' ' Oxymuriate of Potash,' from
Conversations in Chemistry.
' Galvanism : ' ' Mr. Davy has announced to the Eoyal
Society a great discovery in chemistry the fixed
alkalies have been decomposed by the galvanic bat-
tery,' from Chemical Observer ; ' Galvanism and a
Description of a Galvanometer,' from the Literary
Through Mr. Tatum, Faraday made the acquaintance
of Mr. Huxtable, who was then a medical student, and
of Mr. Benjamin Abbott, who was a confidential clerk
in the city, and belonged to the Society of Friends.
Mr. Huxtable lent him the third edition of ' Thomson's
Chemistry,' and ' Parkes's Chemistry :' this Faraday
bound for his friend. The earliest note of Faraday's
that is known to exist was written this year to Mr.
Huxtable. It shows a little of the fun and much of the
gentleness of his writing at this time :
' Dear Sir, Tit for tat, says the proverb ; and it is
14 LIFE OF FARADAY.
1812. ra y earnest wish to make that proverb good in two in-
jiSwzL stances. First, you favoured me with a note a short
time since, and I hereby return the compliment ; and,
secondly, I shall call " tit " upon you next Sunday, and
hope that you will come and tea " tat " with me the
Sunday after. In short, the object of this note is to ob-
tain your company, if agreeable to your convenience
and health (which I hope is perfectly recovered long
before this), the Sunday after next.
'This early application is made to prevent prior
claims ; and I propose to call upon you this day week
to arrange what little circumstances may require it.
1 In hope that your health is as well as ever, and
that all other circumstances are agreeable, I subjoin
myself, Sir, yours,
' M. FARADAY.'
The following are among the few notes which
Faraday made of his own life :
' During my apprenticeship I had the good fortune,
through the kindness of Mr. Dance, who was a customer
of my master's shop and also a member of the Eoyal
Institution, to hear four of the last lectures of Sir H.
Davy in that locality. 1 The dates of these lectures were
February 29, March 14, April 8 and 10, 1812. Of
these I made notes, and then wrote out the lectures in
a fuller form, interspersing them with such drawings as
I could make. The desire to be engaged in scientific
occupation, even though of the lowest kind, induced
me, whilst an apprentice, to write, in my ignorance of