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purple symbols these mystic signs.

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Then waving her graceful arm over the entranced high priest, she
re-enters the aërial circle: it closes and retires.

Alethes, recovering from the magic spells his powerful art had wrought,
rushes to the Book of Fate, opens, and reads the revelation it unfolds.

Through ocean’s depths to southern ice-fields roam,
Through solid strata seek earth’s central fire,
Cull from each wondrous field, each distant home,
An offering meet for her thy soul’s desire.

This gives rise to a series of moving and most instructive dioramas, in
which the travels of Alethes are depicted.

1. A representation of all the inhabitants of the ocean, comprising
big fishes, lobsters, and various crustacea, mollusca, coralines, &c.

2. A view of the antarctic regions,—a continent of ice with an active
volcano and a river of boiling water, supplied by geysers cutting
their way through cliffs of blue ice.

3. A diorama representing the animals whose various {257} remains are
contained in each successive layer of the earth’s crust. In the lower
portions symptoms of increasing heat show themselves until the centre
is reached, which contains a liquid transparent sea, consisting of
some fluid at a white heat, which, however, is filled up with little
infinitesimal eels, all of one sort, wriggling eternally.


This would have produced a magnificent spectacle considered merely as
a show, but the moralist might, if he pleased, have discovered in it a
profound philosophy.

The ennui and lassitude felt by the priest of the Sun arose from the
want of occupation for his powerful mind. The remedy proposed in the
ballet was—look into all the works of creation.

The central ocean of frying eels was added to assist the teaching of
those ministers who prefer the doctrine of the eternity of bodily

[38] An ancestor of mine, Dr. Burthogge, a great friend of John
Locke, wrote, I regret to say it, a book to prove the eternity of
torments; so I felt it a kind of hereditary duty to give him a
lift. The arguments, such as they are, of my wealthy and therefore
revered ancestor are contained in a work whose title is “Causa
Dei; or, an Apology for God,” wherein the perpetuity of infernal
torments is evinced, and Divine justice (that notwithstanding)
defended. By Richard Burthogge, M.D. London: Imprinted at the
Three Daggers, Fleet Street, 1675.

The learned Tobias Swinden, M.A., late rector of Cuxton, in his
“Enquiry into the Nature and Place of Hell,” 2nd edition, 1727,
has discovered that its locality is in the Sun. The accurate map
he gives of that luminary renders it highly probable that the red
flames so well observed and photographed by Mr. De La Rue during a
recent total eclipse have a _real_ existence.

The night proposed for the experiment of the dance at length arrived.
Two fire-engines duly prepared were placed on the stage under the care
of a portion of the fire brigade.

About a dozen danseuses in their white dresses danced and attitudinized
in the rays of powerful oxy-hydrogen {258} blowpipes. The various
brilliant hues of coloured light had an admirable effect on the lovely
fire-flies, especially as they flitted across from one region of
coloured light to another.


A few days after I called on Mr. Lumley, to inquire what conclusion he
had arrived at. He expressed great admiration at the brilliancy of the
colours and the effect of the Rainbow Dance, but much feared the danger
of fire. I tried to reassure him; and to show that I apprehended no
danger from fire, added, that I should myself be present every night.
Mr. Lumley remarked that if the house were burnt his customers would
also be burnt with it. This certainly was a valid objection, for though
he could have insured the building, he could not have insured his




The late Lord Lyndhurst candidate for the University of Cambridge —
The Philosopher refuses to vote for him — The reason why — Example of
unrivalled virtue — In 1829 Mr. Cavendish was a Candidate for that
University — The Author was Chairman of his London Committee — Motives
for putting men on Committees — Of the pairing Sub-Committee — Motives
for Voting — Means of influencing Voters — Voters brought from Berlin
and from India — Elections after the Reform Bill, 1832 — The Author
again requested to be Chairman of Mr. Cavendish’s Committee — Reserves
three days in case of a Contest for Bridgenorth — It occurs, but is
arranged — Bridgenorth being secure, the Author gets up a Contest for
Shropshire — Patriotic Fund sends 500 _l._ to assist the Contest —
It lasts three days — Reflections on Squibs — Borough of Finsbury —
Adventure in an Omnibus — A judicious Loan — Subsequent invitation to
stand for Stroud — Declined — Reflections on improper influence on

When the late Lord Lyndhurst was a candidate for the representation
of the University of Cambridge, I met Mr. ——, a Whig in politics, and
a great friend of Dr. Wollaston. After the usual salutation, he said,
“I hope you will go down to Cambridge and vote for our friend Copley.”
I made no answer, but, looking full in his face, waited for some
explanation. “Oh,” said Mr. ——, “I see what you mean. You think him a
Tory; Copley still is what he always has been—a republican.” I replied
that I was equally unable to vote for him upon that ground, and wished
my friend good morning. {260}

A few evenings after I met the beautiful Lady Copley, who also
canvassed me for my vote for her husband. I had the energy to resist
even this temptation, which I should not have ventured to mention
did not the poll-book enable me to refer to it as a witness of my
unrivalled virtue.


Some years after, in 1829, a vacancy again arose in the representation
of the University of Cambridge. Mr. Cavendish having recently waived
the privilege of his rank, which entitled him, after a residence of
two years, to take the degree of Master of Arts, had entered into
competition with the whole of the young men of his own standing, and
had obtained the distinguished position of second wrangler and senior
Smith’s prize man. Under such circumstances, it was quite natural that
all those who felt it important that the accidental aristocracy of
birth should be able to maintain its position by the higher claim of
superior knowledge; as well as all those who took a just pride in their
Alma Mater, should wish to send such a man as their representative to
the House of Commons.

A very large meeting of the electors was held in London, over which the
Earl of Euston presided. It was unanimously resolved to nominate Mr.
Cavendish as a proper person to represent the University of Cambridge
in the House of Commons. A committee was appointed to carry on the
election, of which I was nominated chairman. Similar proceedings
took place at Cambridge. The family of the young but distinguished
candidate were not at first very willing to enter upon the contest. As
it advanced, the committee-room became daily more and more frequented.
Ultimately, in the midst of the London season, and during the sitting
of the House of Commons, this single election excited an intense
interest amongst men of all parties, whilst those who {261} supported
Mr. Cavendish upon higher grounds were not less active than the most
energetic of his political supporters.


At all elections some few men, perhaps from four or five up to ten
or twelve, do all the difficult and real work of the committee. The
committee itself is, for several reasons, generally very numerous.

All who are supposed to have weight are, of course, put upon it.

Many who wish to appear to have weight get their names upon it.

Some get put upon it thinking to establish a political claim upon the

Others because they like to see their names in the newspapers.

Others again, who, if not on _his_ committee, would vote against the

There are also idlers and busybodies, who go there to talk or to carry
away something to talk about, which may give them importance in their
own circle.

Young lawyers, of both departments of the profession, are very
numerous, possessing acute perceptions of professional advantage.

A jester and a good story-teller are very useful; but a jolly
and enterprising professor of rhodomontade is on some occasions
invaluable—more especially if he is not an Irishman.

Occasionally a few simply honest men are found upon committees. These
are useful as adjuncts to give a kind of high moral character to the
cause; but the rest of the committee generally think them bores,
and when they differ upon any point from the worldly members, it is
invariably whispered that they are crotchety fellows. {262}

When any peculiarly delicate question arises, it is sometimes important
to eliminate one or more of them temporarily from the real committee
of management. This is accomplished (as in graver matters) by sending
him on an embassy, usually to one of the adepts, with a confidential
mission on a subject represented to him as of great importance. The
adept respectfully asks for his view of the subject, rather opposes
it, but not too strongly; is at last convinced, and ultimately
entirely adopts it. The adept then enters upon the honest simpleton’s
crotchet, trots it out in the most indulgent manner, and at length
sends him back, having done the double service of withdrawing him from
a consultation at which he might have impeded the good cause, and also
of enabling him at any future time to declare truly, if necessary, that
he never was present at any meeting at which even a questionable course
had been proposed.


One of the most difficult as well as of the most important departments
of some elections is the pairing sub-committee. When I had myself
to arrange it, I generally picked out two of the cleverest and most
quick-witted of the committee. I told them I had perfect confidence
in their judgment and discretion, and therefore constituted them a
sub-committee, with absolute power on all questions of pairing. I also
entirely forbade any appeal to myself. I then advised them to have
attached to them a couple of good and entertaining talkers, to hold in
play the applicants while they retired to ascertain the policy of the
proposed pair.

Upon one occasion, when both my persuasive gentlemen were absent, I
was obliged to officiate myself. I soon discovered that the adverse
vote was very lukewarm in his own cause, and was also very averse to
the prospect of missing a great cricket-match if he went to the poll.
Whilst my {263} pairing committee were making the necessary inquiries,
I was so fortunate as to secure the promise of his vote for my own
candidate at the succeeding election. In the meantime the pairing
committee had kindly taken measures to save him from missing his
cricket-match without, however, wasting a pair.


Yet notwithstanding all my efforts to introduce primitive virtue into
electioneering, I did not always succeed. About a dozen years had
elapsed after one of the elections I had managed, when the subject
was mentioned at a large dinner-table. A supporter of the adverse
political party, referring to the contest, stated as a _merit_ in his
friends that they had succeeded in outwitting their opponents, for on
one occasion they had got a man on their side who had unluckily just
broken his arm, whom they succeeded in pairing off against a sound man
of their adversaries. Remembering my able coadjutors in that contest,
I had little doubt that a good explanation existed; so the next time I
met one of them I mentioned the circumstance. He at once admitted the
fact, and said, “We knew perfectly well that the man’s arm was broken;
but our man, whom we paired off against him, had _no vote_.” He then
added, “We were afraid to tell you of our success.” To which I replied,
“You acted with great discretion.”

University elections are of quite a different class from all others.
The nature of the influences to be brought to bear upon the voters is
of a peculiar kind: the clerical element is large, and they are for the
greater part expectant of something better hereafter.


The first thing to be done in any election contest is to get as exact
a list as possible of the names and addresses of the voters. In a
university contest the chairman should adopt {264} certain letters or
other signs to be used in his own private copy attached to the names of
the clerical voters. These should indicate—

The books such voter may have written.
The nature of his preferment.
The source whence derived.
The nature of his expectations.
The source whence expected.
The age of the impediment.
The state of its health.
The chance of its promotion.

Possessed of a full knowledge of all these circumstances, a paragraph
in a newspaper regretting the alarming state of health of some eminent
divine will frequently decide the oscillation even of a cautious voter.

This dodge is the more easily practised because some eminent divines,
on the approach of an university election, occasionally become ill, and
even take to their bed, in order to avoid the bore of being canvassed,
or of committing themselves until they see “how the land lies.”

The motives which induce men to act upon election committees are
various. The hope of advancement is a powerful motive. It was stated
to me by some of my committee, that every really working member of the
committee which a few years before had managed the election of Copley
for the University of Cambridge had already been rewarded by place or

My two most active lieutenants in the two contests for Cambridge, to
which I have referred, were not neglected. One of them shortly after
became a Master in Chancery, and the other had a place in India,
producing £10,000 a year. {265}

The highest compliment, however, that party can pay to those who thus
assist them is entirely to ignore their service, and pass them over
on every occasion. This may be done with impunity to the very few who
have such strong convictions that no amount of neglect or ill-usage
can cause them to desert those principles of the soundness of which
their reason is convinced. This course has also the great advantage of
economizing patronage.

Always ascertain who are the personal enemies of the opposing
candidate. If skilfully managed, you may safely depend upon their
becoming the warmest friends of your own. Their enthusiasm can be
easily stimulated: their zeal in the cause may shame some of your
own lukewarm friends into greater earnestness. Men will always give
themselves tenfold more trouble to crush a man obnoxious to their
hatred than they will take to serve their most favoured ally.

When I have been chairman of an election committee I have found it
advantageous to commence my duties early in the morning, and to remain
until late at night. There is always something to be done for the
advancement of the cause. In the first Cambridge election in which I
took part I invariably remained at my post until midnight; and in the
second, I was seldom absent at that hour.


One evening, being alone, I employed myself in looking through our
lists to find the names of all voters at that period unaccounted for.
The first name which attracted my attention was that of a liberal with
whom I was personally unacquainted. The next day I set at work one of
my investigating committee. In the course of the following day, he had
traced out the voter, who at that time was at Berlin. As there was
ample time for his return, a friend was employed to write to him, and
he returned and voted for our candidate. {266}


On another evening, the name of Minchin turned up on the list. I
remembered the man, whom I had met very frequently at the rooms of one
of my most intimate friends; but I had not seen him for nearly twenty

The next day, after many inquiries, I found that he had been lost sight
of for a long time, and it was believed that he had gone out to India.
I immediately sent a note to a friend of mine, Captain Robert Locke,
who commanded an Indiaman, to beg of him to look in upon me at the
committee-room. In two hours he called and informed me that Minchin
was a barrister at Calcutta, and was about to return to England. On
my expressing a wish for further particulars, he kindly went into the
City to procure information, and on his return told me that Minchin
was on his voyage home in the “Herefordshire,” an excellent ship. It
was due on a certain day, about a fortnight thence, and would in all
probability not be three days behind its time.

In the evening, being again alone in the committee-room, I resumed the
Minchin question, and found that he might possibly arrive on the second
of the three days’ polling. I therefore wrote the following letter:—


If twenty years have not altered your political principles, we have
now an opportunity of getting in a Liberal to represent our University.

The three days of polling are —— —— ——

If you arrive in time, pray come immediately to my committee-room in
Cockspur Street.

Yours truly,


I addressed this letter to Minchin at Portsmouth, and {267} making two
copies of it, directed them to two other seaports. When I put these
letters into the basket, I smiled at my own simplicity in speculating
on the triple improbability—

1. That Minchin should ever get my letter.

2. That his ship, which was expected, should really arrive on the
second or third of the three days of polling.

3. That a young lawyer should not have changed his political
principles in twenty years.

However, I considered that the chance of this election lottery-ticket
winning for us a vote, although very small, was at least worth the
three sheets of letter-paper which it cost our candidate.


Amidst the bustle of the election this subject was entirely forgotten.
The first day of polling arrived, and was concluded, and as usual I
was sitting, at midnight, alone in the large committee-room, when the
door opened, and there entered a man enveloped in a huge box-coat, who
advanced towards me. He held out his hand, and grasping mine, said, “I
have not altered my political principles.” This was Minchin, to whom
the pilot, cruizing about on the look-out for the “Herefordshire,” had
delivered a packet of letters.

The first letter Minchin opened was mine. He immediately went below,
told his wife that he must get into the boat which had just put the
pilot on board, and hasten to Cambridge, whilst she remained with
the children to pursue their voyage to London. Minchin returned in
the pilot-boat to Portsmouth, found a coach just ready to start,
got up on the roof, borrowed a box-coat, and on arriving in London,
drove directly to the committee-room. Finding that it {268} would
be most convenient to Minchin to start immediately for Cambridge, I
sent off a note to the Temple for the most entertaining man[39] upon
the committee; I introduced him to Minchin, and they posted down to
Cambridge, and voted on the second day.

[39] My friend, John Elliott Drinkwater, afterwards Bethune.

Greatly to the credit and to the advantage of the University, Mr.
Cavendish was elected on this occasion.

* * * * *


In May, 1832, after the passing of the Reform Bill, there was a
dissolution of Parliament. At the general election which ensued, Lord
Palmerston and Mr. Cavendish, the two former members, again became
candidates. Two of the most active members of Mr. Cavendish’s former
committee called upon me, one of whom began speaking in somewhat
complimentary phrases of our young candidate. I was listening
attentively to all that could be said in favour of the Cavendish
family, when his companion, suddenly interrupting him, said, “No, ——
that won’t do for Babbage.” He then continued, in terms which I have
no wish to repeat, to speak of our candidate, and concluded by saying,
that they expressed the opinion of all the working members of the
former committee, and came by their desire to request me again to take
the chair during the approaching contest; stating, also, that there was
no other man under whom they would all willingly act. He then entreated
me to be their chairman, not for the sake of the Cavendishes, but for
the sake of the cause.

This appeal was irresistible. I immediately acceded to their request,
but with one reservation, in case my brother-in-law’s seat was
contested, that I should have three days to help him at Bridgenorth.

Under such circumstances the contest commenced. I can {269} truly add,
that amongst the many elections in which I have taken an active working
share, none was ever carried on with greater zeal, nor were greater
efforts ever made to attain success.

I had good reason at its commencement to doubt the success of our
candidate: not from any defect on his part, but entirely on political
grounds. The same reasons induced me to suppose that Lord Palmerston’s
seat was equally in danger. Of course, a tone of perfect confidence
was sustained, and, but for a very inopportune petition signed by a
considerable number of members of the University, I believe that we
might have managed, by a compromise with the other party, to have
secured one seat for our own. As it was, however, both the Liberal
candidates were defeated.


The contingency I had anticipated did occur. I was sent for, and went
down by the mail to assist Mr. Wolryche Whitmore. On my arrival,
I found that circumstances had entirely changed, and not only my
brother-in-law, but also Mr. Foster, a large iron-master, was to be
returned for Bridgenorth without a contest.


As soon as I was informed of this arrangement, I took immediate
measures for rejoining my committee in Cockspur Street. On reaching
Bridgenorth, it appeared that four hours would elapse before the mail
to London could arrive. I fortunately found a great number of Mr.
Foster’s most influential supporters assembled at the hotel, comprising
amongst them many of the largest iron-masters and manufacturers in the
county. They were naturally elated at the success of their friend,
which secured to their class a certain amount of influence in the House
of Commons. In the course of conversation, mention was made of the
utter neglect of the manufacturing interests of the district by their
county members. {270} I remarked, that it depended upon themselves to
remedy this evil, and inquired whether they were seriously disposed to
work. One of the party, who had greatly assisted me when I was managing
another contest, and who had ridden over four counties in search of
votes for us, appealed to my own experience of their energy. After some
discussion, I suggested that they should start a rival candidate of
their own for the county.

I then proposed to retire into another room and draw up an address to
the freeholders, and also placards, to be stuck up in every town and
village in the county. I desired them, in the mean time, to divide the
county into districts, of such size that one of our party could in the
course of a day go to every town and large village in his district,
and arrange with one or more tradesmen in our interest to exhibit the
address in their shop-windows. I also desired them to make an estimate
of the number of large and small placards necessary for each town and
village, in order that we might ascertain how many of each need be

I returned with the addresses to the freeholders. In these the
characters of their late members were lightly sketched, and the public

Online LibraryCharles BabbagePassages from the Life of a Philosopher → online text (page 19 of 36)