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maxim might have been pleaded in excuse:—

“Pictoribus atque Poetis
Quidlibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas.”

_Smooth._ I believe that he has left _science_; at least, he wishes it
to be so considered. He is my colleague at Shoreditch; and, of course,
I wish to support him;—but,—when business is to be done;—and men,—and
things, to be brought together,—I own,—I _doubt_—whether a more
practical man,—might not——

_Shift._ And _that_ poor Turnstile certainly is not. He must always
have _a reason_;—nothing but the _quod erat demonstrandum_; a romancer;
if you have anything to do, his first object is _to do it well_. I am
quite sure he will not answer our purpose.

_Closewind._ He talks too much about consistency; and on party
questions, you are never sure of him: last week he did not divide with
us, on either night.

_Lord A._ Well; _I_ am quite indifferent. I did hear of his being at
Lord Flumm’s; and after what had just passed in the Lords, a personal
friend of mine would, perhaps, have kept away from that quarter. Is
there no other person?

_Smooth._ (_Hesitatingly._) Davies Gilbert.

_Shift._ (_Laughing._) Pooh! Pooh! Poor Gilbert! No, that will never do.

_Smooth._ Or—Warburton?

_Shift._ (_Sneering._) Worse and worse!—if _ever_ there was an

_Closewind._ But we don’t know that Turnstile is sure of his seat.
Smooth, hasn’t MacLeech been talked of for Shoreditch? {287}

_Smooth._ He’s _certain_ of succeeding! The independent gentlemen don’t
quite like Turnstile—they wish for Highway—and the split will foil them
both. MacLeech—now that he has been mentioned—I must acknowledge, does
seem to me to be the _very_ man for the manufactures,—a practical,
persevering man of business,—never absent from the House,—excellent
Scotch connections,—a cousin of the Duke of Y.’s——.

_Lord A._ That is a good point, certainly. An appointment given there
would be candid and liberal;—it might conciliate——

_Closewind._ A very civil, excellent fellow, too. MacLeech, _I_ should
say, is the man.

_Shift._ I quite agree with you.

_Smooth._ I confess, I think he will fill the office well. And if it is
thought quite necessary that Hume’s motion to reduce the salary,—though
it is not large——

_Closewind._ Oh, no! The salary had better remain;—2000 _l._ is not too
much. Besides, the _principle_ of giving way is bad.

_Lord A._ Well, gentlemen, let it be so. Smooth, you will let MacLeech
know that he has the office.

_Smooth._ And at the present salary?

_Lord A._ Agreed. [_Exeunt._

SCENE IV.—_The Athenæum Club._ SMOOTH _and_ ATALL _at a table_.

_Smooth._ I saw it this morning on the breakfast-table at Lord A’s; it
is an admirable article, and I was told is yours.

_Atall._ (_Decliningly._) These things, you know, are always supposed
to be anonymous. But I am not sorry that you liked the paper. Did his
lordship speak of it? {288}

_Smooth._ The book was open at the article upon the table. It does
you honour. Hits _just_ the happy point,—hints probable _intentions_,
without giving any pledge,—enough to please the Liberals,—and full room
for _explanation_, if any change becomes expedient. The true plan,
believe me, for a ministry, in times like these, is to proceed _en
tâtonnant_.—Pray, Mr. Dean, how is the Bishop of Hereford?

_Atall._ I didn’t know that he was particularly ill. He has long been

_Smooth._ These complainers do sometimes hold out. But they cannot last
for ever.—We meet I hope to-morrow at the levee. You _ought_ to be

_Atall._ I have come to town for the purpose; having secured, I think,
Closewind’s election at Cambridge.

_Smooth._ Well done, my very good friend! Men of talent should always
pull together. Sorry that I must go; but we meet to-morrow. (_Shaking
hands very cordially._) [_Exit._

SCENE VI.—BYEWAYS’ _lodgings_. BYEWAYS _alone, writing_.


_Turnstile._ My dear Byeways; I want your assistance. Deserted by those
shabby dogs the Radicals, and tricked, I fear, by the Whigs, I find I
have no chance of a decent show of numbers at the next election, if my
scientific friends do not support me with spirit. Even so, it _can_
be only an honourable retreat. I count upon _you_,—you understand
the world;—and as soon as we can muster a committee, you must be my

_Byeways._ My good friend, don’t be in a hurry; sit down and tell me
all about it. I know you don’t care much about your seat,—and after
all,—it is,—to you, a waste of {289} time;—but, with the Independents
at your back, you are secure. As to me, my dear fellow, you know that I

_Turnstile._ But man! the Independents, as you call them, have taken up
Highway; he blusters, and goes any length.

_Byeways._ But Smooth, you know, is strong in Shoreditch,—Government
interest,—you brought him in last time; and you and he, together——

_Turnstile._ I know it; but he says he is not _strong enough_ to run
any risk. If you will be my chairman, with a good committee, we may at
least die game.

_Byeways._ My dear Turnstile, you know how glad I always am to serve
you—and you know what _I think_;—but in my situation, my dear fellow,
it is quite impossible that I can _oppose_ the ministers. MacLeech
too, they say, is a candidate; and his brother-in-law’s uncle was very
civil, last year, in Scotland, to my wife’s cousin.—But I _have_ a plan
for you. There is Atall, just come to town; make _him_ your chief,
and bring the Cambridge men together. The clergy were always strong
in Shoreditch. Atall can speak to them.—I am obliged to go to the War
Office.—And you had better lose no time in seeing Atall. Sorry to bid
you good-bye. [_Exit._

_Turnstile._ Well, this _is_ strange! yet I thought I might have
counted upon Byeways. [_Exit._


_Mrs. Fubsey._ But, my dear sister; how _can_ you so beflatter that
poor man? You don’t know all the mischief you may do to him.

_Lady Flumm._ “Poor man!” I cannot pity him. His maxim is, that
knowledge is power; and he thinks _his_ {290} knowledge is all that
can be known. He has to learn that _our_ knowledge, also, is power; and
that we know how to use it too.


_Lord Flumm._ There, Lady Selina, so much for your philosophic friend.
Poor Turnstile! What a business he _has_ made of it. Here is the
“Times,” with the report of the Shoreditch election meeting. Turnstile
has no chance. The Scotchmen coalesce; Highway none of us can think
of; and Smooth and MacLeech walk over the ground in triumph; and then,
the Presidency of Manufactures, the _very_ appointment for which poor
Turnstile was fitted (and, to do the poor devil justice, he could have
filled it well), is given to MacLeech, a Scotch hanger on, or distant
cousin of Smooth’s, and with the old salary, in spite of all that Hume
could say against it.—Bravo! Reform, and the Whigs for ever!—We Tories
could not have done the business in a better style.

_Enter a Footman._

_Footman._ Mr. Turnstile, my Lady, sends up his card.

_Lady Flumm._ Oh, not at home! And Sleek, put a memorandum in the
visiting-book, that we are “out of town,” whenever Mr. Turnstile calls.

SCENE XII.—TURNSTILE’S _Parlour. Night._ TURNSTILE _alone_.

_Turnstile._ Then all is up. What a fool have I been to embark upon
this sea of trouble! Two years of trifling and lost time; while others
have been making discoveries and adding to their reputation. Those
_rascal_ Whigs, my blood boils to think of them. I can forgive the
Shoreditch {291} people—the greasy, vulgar, money-getting beasts;—but
my friends, the men of principle—— (_Getting up and walking about._)

Is it still too late to return? (_Looking round upon his books and
instruments._) There you are, my old friends, whom I _have_ treated
rather ungratefully. What a scene at that cursed meeting! Highway’s
bullying; and the baseness of Smooth; the sleek, sly, steering of that
knave MacLeech; and yet they _must_ succeed. There’s no help for it.
I _am_ fairly beaten—thrown overboard, with not a leg to stand upon;
and all I have to do is to go to bed now, to sleep off this fever; and
to-morrow, take leave of politics, and try to be myself once more.


* * * * *

_Note._—The reader will doubtlessly have already discovered that
“Byeways,” with the other _dramatis personæ_ of this squib, are living
characters not unknown in fashionable and political circles. In a
future edition, if it can be done without offence, I may perhaps be
induced to present them to the public without their masks and buskins.




Pension to Dr. Dalton — Inhabitants of Manchester subscribe for a
Statue by Chantrey — The Author proposed that he should appear at a
Levee — Various difficulties suggested and removed — The Chancellor
approves and offers to present him — Mentions it to King William IV.
— Difficulties occur — Dalton as a Quaker could not wear a Sword —
Answer, he may go in his Robes as Doctor of Laws of Oxford — As a
Quaker he could not wear Scarlet Robes — Answer, Dalton is afflicted
with Colour-blindness — Crimson to him is dirt-colour — Dr. Dalton
breakfasts with the Author — First Rehearsal — Second Rehearsal at Mr.
Wood’s — At the Levee — The Church in danger — Courtiers jealous of
the Quaker — Conversation at Court sometimes interesting, occasionally

The following letter was addressed by me to Dr. Henry, the biographer
of Dalton, in reply to inquiries respecting the part I had taken in
procuring a pension for that distinguished philosopher. It was printed
in the “Life of Dalton,” and is now reprinted from its illustration of
the subject of this chapter:—

“MY DEAR SIR,—I have now examined my papers, as far as I can, to find
any traces of Dalton amongst them. I find only two letters, of which I
send you copies.

“I well remember taking a great interest in Dalton’s pension, as you
will see by several passages in ‘The Decline of Science,’ pp. 20 and
22, and note; but I have no recollection of any of the circumstances,
or through what channel it was applied for. {293}

“I find several letters of that date from Mr. Wood,[41] and it appears
from them that I went with him to Poulett Thomson;[42] but I only
gather this fact from those letters. I send them in the enclosure, as
they may be of use. You can return them at your own convenience.


“When the inhabitants of Manchester had subscribed 2,000 _l._ for
a statue of Dalton, he came up to London, and was the guest of Mr.
Wood. He sat to Chantrey for the statue. I consequently saw much of my
friend. It occurred to me that, as his townsmen were having a statue
of him—as the University of Oxford had given him the honorary degree
of Doctor of Laws—and as the Government had given him a pension—if it
were not incompatible with his feelings, it would be a fit thing that
he should be presented at a levee. It appeared to me that if William
the Fourth were informed of it, it would afford him an opportunity
of saying a few words to the venerable philosopher, which would be
gratifying to the inhabitants of Manchester, the University of Oxford,
and the world of science.

[41] Member for South Lancashire.

[42] Afterwards Lord Sydenham.

“Accordingly I wrote a note to Mr. Wood, suggesting the idea, and
proposing that he should ascertain from Doctor Dalton whether it would
be unpleasant to him to go through the usual forms.

“Dalton not objecting, my note was sent on by Mr. Wood to Lord
Brougham, who at that time was Lord Chancellor. He approved highly of
the plan, and offered to present Doctor Dalton. He also mentioned the
circumstance to the King.

“I had had some conversation with Mr. Wood upon the subject, when
several difficulties presented themselves to him. Doctor Dalton, as a
Quaker, could not appear in a {294} court-dress, because he must wear
a sword. To this I replied, that being aware of the difficulty, I had
proposed to let him wear the robes of a Doctor of Laws of Oxford.

“Mr. Wood remarked, that those robes being _scarlet_, they were not of
a colour admissible by Quakers.

“To this I replied, that Doctor Dalton had a kind of
_colour-blindness_, and that all red colours appeared to him to be
the colour of dirt. Besides, I had found that our friend entertained
very reasonable views of such mere matters of form. The velvet cap
of the Doctor again was not an obstacle, as he was informed that it
was usually held in the hand, and was rather a mark of office than a
covering for the head.

“These difficulties being surmounted, Doctor Dalton came one morning to
breakfast with me. We were alone; and after breakfast he went up with
me into the drawing-room, in order to see the Difference Engine. After
we had made several series of calculations, he recollected that he had
in his pocket a note to me from Mr. Wood. On hastily looking it over, I
found that it was to announce to me that our friend acquiesced in the


“I now mentioned the forms usual at a levee, and placing several chairs
in order to represent the various officers in the Presence-chamber, I
put Doctor Dalton in the middle of the circle to represent the King.
I then told my friend that I should represent a greater man than the
King; that I intended to personate Doctor Dalton, and would re-enter at
the further door, go round the circle, make my obeisance to the King,
and thus show him the kind of ceremony at which he was to assist.

“On passing the third chair from the King’s, I put my card on the
chair, at the same time informing Doctor Dalton {295} that this was
the post of a Lord in Waiting, who takes the cards, and gives them to
the next officer, who announces them to the King.

“On passing the philosopher I kissed his hand, and then passing round
the rest of the circle of chairs, I thus gave him his first lesson as a

“It was arranged that I should take Doctor Dalton with me to the levee,
and put on his card, ‘Doctor Dalton, presented by the Lord Chancellor.’


“When the morning arrived I went to Mr. Wood’s residence, and found
Doctor Dalton quite ready for the expedition. In order to render the
chief actor perfect in his part, we again had a rehearsal; Mrs. Wood
personating the King, and the rest of the family, with the assistance
of sundry chairs and stools, representing the great Officers of State.
I then entered the room, preceding my excellent friend, who followed
his instructions as perfectly as if he had been repeating an experiment.

“Being now quite satisfied with the performance, we drove off to St.
James’s. The robes of a Doctor of Laws are rarely made use of, except
at a University Address: consequently Dr. Dalton’s costume attracted
much attention, and compelled me to gratify the curiosity of many of
my friends, by explaining who he was. The prevailing opinion had been
that he was the Mayor of some corporate town come up to get knighted.
I informed my inquirers, that he was a much more eminent person than
any Mayor of any city, and having won for himself a name which would
survive when orders of knighthood should be forgotten, he had no
ambition to be knighted.


“At a short distance from the Presence-chamber, I observed close before
me several dignitaries of the church, in {296} the full radiance of
their vast lawn sleeves. The Bishop of Gloucester,[43] who was nearest,
accidentally turning his head, I recognized a face long familiar to me
from its cordiality and kindness. A few words were interchanged between
us, and also by myself with the rest of the party, the remotest of
whom, if I remember rightly, was the Archbishop of Dublin. The dress
of my friend seemed to strike the Bishop’s attention; but the quiet
costume of the Quaker beneath his scarlet robe was entirely unnoticed.
I therefore confided to the Bishop of Gloucester the fact that I had
a Quaker by my side, at the same time assuring him that my peaceful
and philosophic friend was very far from meditating any injury to the
Church. The effect was electric upon the whole party; episcopal eyes
had never yet beheld such a spectacle in such society, and I fear,
notwithstanding my assurance, some portion of the establishment thought
the Church really in danger.

“We now entered the Presence-chamber, and having passed the King, I
retired very slowly, in order that I might observe events. Doctor
Dalton having kissed hands, the King asked him several questions, all
which the philosopher duly answered, and then moved on in proper order
to join me. This reception, however, had not passed with sufficient
rapidity to escape jealousy, for I heard one officer say to another,
‘Who the d—l is that fellow whom the King keeps talking to so long?’

[43] Dr. Monk.


“Conversations at Courts are not always thought to be the most
interesting things in the world; although, doubtless, they must be
so to the parties engaged in them. In the midst of crowded levees
and drawing-rooms, one is often compelled to become the confidant of
strangers around us. {297} The amusement derived from this source
predominates over the instruction. I have heard much anxious inquiry
as to certain pieces of clerical preferment—who is to have certain
military or colonial commands, and what promotions will take place from
the consequent vacancies?—many political queries have been proposed,
and how ‘the party’ would act in certain contingent cases? I once heard
a gentleman receive at a levee the first announcement of a legacy;
on another occasion, on my return from the Continent, I was myself
informed at a levee of a similarly gratifying, and to me entirely
unexpected, event.

“Doctor Dalton having now passed through the formal part of a levee,
had a better opportunity of viewing the details. He inquired the names
of several of the portraits, and I took the opportunity of pointing out
to him many of the living celebrities.

“We then returned to Mr. Wood’s residence, and the whole party were
highly gratified at the success of the undertaking.

“I am, my dear Sir, very truly yours,

“_Dorset Street, Manchester Square,
February 7, 1854._”




The Author invited to a Meeting at Turin of the Philosophers of Italy,
1840 — The King, Charles Albert — Reflections on Shyness — Question of
Dress — Electric Telegraph — Theory of Storms — Remark of an Italian
Friend in the evening at the Opera — Various Instruments taken to the
Palace, and shown to the young Princes — The Queen being absent — The
reason why — The young Princes did great credit to their Governor
— The General highly gratified — The Philosopher proposes another
difficult question — It is referred to the King himself — An audience
is granted to ask the King’s permission to present the woven Silk
Engraving of Jacquard to Her Majesty — Singular but Comic Scene — The
final Capture of the Butterflies — Visit to Raconigi — The Vintage.

About a quarter of a century ago the Court of Turin had the reputation
of being the most formal and punctilious of any in Europe. It was dull
to the diplomatic officials, who were doomed like planets to circulate
around it, though not without interest to the inquiring traveller,
whose orbit, like that of a comet, passed through its atmosphere only
at distant intervals.

In 1840 I received a gratifying invitation to meet the _élite_ of the
science of Italy at Turin. On my arrival I immediately took measures to
pay my respects in the usual manner to the sovereign of the country.
Having inquired of a nobleman[44] high in the confidence of the King,
when there {299} would occur a levee, in order that I might have the
honour of being presented, I was informed that his Majesty was aware of
my arrival, and would receive me at a private audience. Two days after
I had a formal visit from Count Alessandro Saluzzo to inform me that
the King would receive me the next day at two o’clock.

[44] Conte D. Alessandro Saluzzo di Monesiglio, Grande di Corona,
Presid. della sexiare dell’ interno nel consiglio di stato, &c.


I then made inquiries as to the usual dress, and found that a court
dress was not considered essential on such occasions, especially for a
foreigner, and that I might with perfect propriety go in plain clothes.
I was glad to avail myself of this permission; but in order to prevent
any misapprehension, I drove up to the palace about a quarter of an
hour before the appointed time, and called upon General Cesare de
Salluce,[45] the governor of the two young princes, the present King of
Italy and the late Duke of Genoa, then respectively about eighteen and
seventeen years of age.

The General kindly offered to accompany me to the antechamber. In the
course of our conversation I took an opportunity of mentioning that,
having been informed I might appear in plain clothes, I had thought it
most respectful to his sovereign to wear the same dress I had worn a
few days before I left England, when I had the honour of being invited
to the first party[46] given by a subject to my own sovereign.

[45] Saluzzo di Monesiglio, Car. Cesare, Luogoten, Gen., Gran
Mastro d’Artiglieria et Governatore de Reali Principi, &c.; the
younger brother of the Count Alexander.

[46] The déjeûné at Wimbledon Park, the residence of the late Duke
of Somerset.

I had already been informed that the King, Charles Albert, took a great
interest in the success of the meeting; that he was a very good man,
but remarkably shy; and that he probably would not detain me more than
perhaps five minutes.

I had myself experienced the misery of that affliction, and {300} felt
how much more painful it must inevitably become when it fell to the lot
of a person placed in the most exalted rank.


On entering the ante-room I found a number of the most distinguished
people of the country waiting for audience, the king at that time being
occupied, as I was informed, with one of his ministers. On his exit the
master of the ceremonies announced that his Majesty would receive me.

I then entered the royal reception-room, and was presented to the
King. He was a remarkably tall person, dressed in military costume,
having a very peculiar expression of countenance, which I was at a loss
how immediately to interpret. The King invited me to sit down, and I
followed his Majesty to a large bay-window, where we immediately sat
down on two stools opposite to each other.

The King expressed his satisfaction that I had come from so
considerable a distance to assist at the councils of the men of science
then assembling in his own capital. Of course I replied by remarking
that the advancement of the sciences contributed to the material as
well as to the intellectual progress of every nation, and that when a
sovereign, intimately convinced of this truth, took measures for the
extension and diffusion of knowledge, it was the duty of all those
engaged in its cultivation respectfully to assist as far as their
individual circumstances permitted.

After a short pause, the King put some question which I do not
remember, except that it was one of the conventional topics of society:
perhaps it might have related to my journey. I now felt that unless
I could raise some question of curiosity in his Majesty’s mind, to
overcome his natural reserve, the interview would soon terminate
precisely in the manner predicted. I therefore, in replying to this
question, {301} contrived to introduce a remarkable fact relative to
the electric telegraph. I soon perceived that it had taken hold of the
King’s imagination, and the next question confirmed my view. “For what
purposes,” said the King, “will the electric telegraph become useful?”

Online LibraryCharles BabbagePassages from the Life of a Philosopher → online text (page 21 of 36)