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occasion for Botany, would be followed, as that was, by an
open poll. Had Dr French been more cautious, or more
candid, he would have taken good care to avoid a mis-
understanding on so important a question ; and, above all,
he would not have selected a form of words for his Grace
with which the very meaning he did not wish to convey
would infallibly be associated.

Sedgwick's feelings on reading Dr French's pamphlet will
be best understood from the following letter, addressed to Dr
Monk, then Dean of Peterborough, one of those who had
signed the Representation.

TRIN. COLL., October 23, 1823.
Dear Mr Dean,

I am just returned to the University after an absence
of more than five months. You will, I doubt not, have seen
Dr French's reply to the letter which I addressed to the
Senate. I am about to commence my reply to it this morning.
My opponent has come out with a bold tone, and has taken
a lofty flight. Unless I am most egregiously mistaken I can
easily bring him down from his perch not by swaggering
invectives and solemn asseverations, but by a plain unvarnished

1 An Address to the Senate, p. 10.

s. i. 16


1823. tale which he will have reason to remember to the last day of
his life. I now formally accuse him of mental reservation
towards myself, and of unfair and disingenuous dealing
towards Henslow and the Senate. I am, however, resolved
not to let the strength of my phrase go " beyond the staple of
my argument", and to conduct the controversy with proper
forbearance. On the abstract merits of the question in liti-
gation I shall riot be able to speak at length, but I shall
endeavour to notice them some way or other. Have you any
information to communicate on the subject ? Would you
have the goodness to give me a synoptical view of the proofs
by which the rank of Professors is established, and their
distinction from the Lectores of the 4Oth Chapter of Elizabeth's
statutes is made out 1 ? I am now very anxious to get forward
with my pamphlet. You will therefore greatly add to the
obligation by sending your information as soon as you can
possibly make it convenient. Did I not know your zeal in a
good cause I should not have ventured to trouble you.

Present my best remembrances to Mrs Monk, and believe
me, Dear Mr Dean,

Yours ever,


Sedgwick was as good as his word. Before the end of
term he had produced a pamphlet of eighty-six closely-printed
octavo pages, which may still be safely recommended to the
perusal of those who care for University history. It is a straight-
forward, dignified, composition, with here and there some nobly
eloquent passages ; contrasting very favourably, on the whole,
with the strut and swagger of Dr French's laboured periods.
There may be a few errors of detail, but the main arguments
against the claim of the Heads are learned and accurate.

1 This Statute directs that the election of lectores, bedelli, and other specified
officers shall be conducted in the same manner as that of the Vice-Chancellor i.e.
by open poll after nomination by the Heads. It was Sedgwick's object to prove
that these lectores were quite different from the Professores^ whose offices had not
been created when the Statute was framed.


The personal question is ably managed. No railing accusation 1824.
is brought against Dr French, but the ' plain unvarnished tale ' ^ fc> 39-
which Sedgwick tells leads irresistibly to a conclusion most
unfavourable to his reputation as a man of honour. But, on
the other hand, the whole pamphlet is far too long. This
defect is partly due to the fact that it was written in the
intervals of the author's lectures. As soon as the materials of
one sheet were brought together, he tells us, they were sent to
the printer ; and during their passage through the press, he
was employed in preparing matter for the next sheet 1 . But
this is a defect which detracted from all Sedgwick's writings,
except his scientific papers. He never knew when to stop.

Dr French promptly published Observations upon Professor
Sedgwick's Reply (21 January, 1824), but prudently refrained
from comment on the personal question. His pamphlet is
almost wholly devoted to the legal difficulty, which depended,
in great measure, on the interpretation of the fortieth chapter
of the Statutes of Elizabeth. Sedgwick replied (25 February,
1824), in another pamphlet of considerable length 2 , confining
himself, like his opponent, to law and precedent. Neither of
these works need be examined in detail, and our account of
the controversy shall be closed with a single quotation from
Sedgwick's first pamphlet partly as a specimen of his style,
partly from the intrinsic value of what he says.

"Some one may, perhaps, contend, that the bustle of public
elections but ill accords with the tranquil habits of this seat of
science ; and that the question ought to be conceded to the Heads,
out of regard to the peace of the University. Words of peace are
always to be suspected when they are accompanied with acts of
aggression. By conceding this question, we part with our own
privileges without finding any remedy for the evil complained of.
For it is notorious to the Members of the Senate, that no ordinary
academical elections have been contested with more warmth, than
those in which the Heads have nominated the two candidates.

" Had there existed any flagrant abuse had there been a con-

1 A Reply to an Address to the Senate, p. 79.

2 It is called : Remarks on the observations of Dr French : with an argument
on the Law of Elections to offices created by the Senate. 8vo. Camb. 1824.

1 6 2


1824. spiracy on the part of certain colleges, to exclude others from their
JEt. 39. fair share of academical distinctions, there might have been some
plea for introducing new customs into the University. But in the
present case, no abuse was even pretended; we were on the point of
electing the very man, who was afterwards chosen by our opponents.
And the lists of those who have filled our Professorships undeniably
prove, that the Senate has, from time to time, selected out of its
ranks the man who, by his zeal and his talents, was best qualified to
promote the true interests of science, and to support the credit of our

"It was on this principle that Martyn, Watson, Milner, Wollaston,
and Tennant, were elected ; and on the same principles their succes-
sors have been, and will continue to be elected, as long as the
privileges of the Senate are unextinguished.

"Had the Professorship of Mineralogy been the first office created
by a Grace of the Senate, I should not have hesitated to pronounce
an election by nomination, the worst form which was sanctioned by
the usage of the University. It has all the evils of an open poll,
with very little of the good. For it virtually gives the election to a
few individuals, and what is worse, it gives it to them indirectly.

" Were these individuals led by their known habits of life, and
their high official duties, to watch the progress and to examine the
refinements of modern science; we might, perhaps, be content to
surrender our privileges into their hands, and to repose with confi-
dence on their wisdom. Collectively, they are entitled to all respect,
as the Heads of our venerable establishments as the guardians of
our discipline and as the directors of the studies of our younger
members. Still more they are entitled to our veneration for their
virtues, and for their talents, by which alone many of them have
reached the greatest academical elevation. But this very elevation
removes them from direct sympathy with the Senate, and imposes on
them such high and important duties, that they have but little time
for the elaborate investigations of Physiology, of Botany, of Che-
mistry, and of Mineralogy. Nay, some of them may even think, that
these subjects are unfit for a course of public lectures and that the
Professors' chairs are nothing better than an academical incumbrance.

" Let the Senate look well to it, before, in any case, it surrenders
the power of election into the hands of those who, to say the least
of it, may be indifferent to the office, and therefore can have no
deep interest in selecting an active candidate.

" I am not now warning the Senate against an ideal danger. My
opponent has publicly told us, that he thought the continuance of the
Professorship of Mineralogy unnecessary. I may tell him in reply,
that the Senate thought differently that the republic of science
allows no such thing as official wisdom and that his own opinion
will be of little weight, unless it be founded on a deeper knowledge
of the subject, than that which is possessed by his opponents. As
for myself, I am well contented, on this question, to have acted with
the majority.


"Individuals there are, at all times, who, not considering that 1824.
improvement is innovation, oppose themselves to every change, and ^Et. 39.
think every new appointment unnecessary. But the University of
Cambridge has not acted on such heartless suggestions during the
last century; and as long as her constitution remains unimpaired she
will never act upon them 1 ."

One word more is necessary before we dismiss this tedious
affair. Three years after the publication of Sedgwick's last
pamphlet in which a decision favourable to the views of
himself and his friends was confidently anticipated the con-
troversy was closed by an award of Sir John Richardson,
to whom the matter had been referred by the Senate. His
decision may be fairly described as a verdict for the defen-
dants the Vice-Chancellor and the Heads for he directed
that future elections to the Professorships of Anatomy,
Botany, and Mineralogy, should be conducted according to
the method prescribed in the 4Oth Chapter of the Statutes.

1 Reply, etc., pp. 75 78.




GEOLOGICAL WORK (l8l8 1827).

SEDGWICK'S first geological work in the north of England 1 ,
briefly noticed in the last chapter, was succeeded by a
thorough examination of the Lake District. "I spent the
summers of 1822, 1823, and 1824," he says, "entirely among
the Lake Mountains, and I made a detailed Geological Map
of that rugged region including a considerable portion
of Westmoreland and Cumberland, and a small portion of
Lancashire 2 ." The scientific value of these explorations
may be estimated from the papers read to the Geological
Society between 1826 and 1828, and from the five letters
addressed long afterwards to Wordsworth, of which the first
three embody the results of the work done between 1822

1 In that year, 1821, he began the researches into the relations of the Magnesian
Limestone which were continued during 1822 and 1823. Trans. Geol. Soc, Land.
Ser. 2. iii. 37.

2 To Archdeacon Musgrave, 5 October, 1856.


and 1824*. But of personal details the record is almost a 182210
blank. A brief but pleasant glimpse of Sedgwick at his work l824 '
is afforded to us in one of Whewell's letters, written from 39.
Kendal in 1824: 'I got here on Thursday last, and next day
saw Wordsworth at Rydal, and Southey at Keswick, by
whom I was informed where to look for Sedgwick. I found
him on Saturday at the base of Skiddaw, in company with
Gwatkin 2 , as I had expected 3 ,' but after this the writer passes
on to other subjects. This dearth of information is the more
provoking, as we know that many agreeable memories, both
of adventures and of friends, clustered round these months in

It was then that Sedgwick formed an intimate friendship
with Wordsworth, at whose house he was always welcome,
and who, to a certain extent, directed and assisted his
explorations. Wordsworth has been credited with a cordial
dislike for men of science, who looked upon Nature with
other eyes than his ; and the first of Sedgwick's letters opens
with a sort of apology for writing on geology to one who had
uttered " a poetic ban against my brethren of the hammer " :

He who with pocket-hammer smites the edge
Of luckless rock or prominent stone, disguised
In weather-stains or crusted o'er by Nature
With her first growths, detaching by the stroke
A chip or splinter, to resolve his doubts;
And, with that ready answer satisfied,
The substance classes by some barbarous name.
And hurries on ; or from the fragments picks
His specimen, if but haply interveined
With sparkling mineral, or should crystal cube
Lurk in its cells and thinks himself enriched,
Wealthier, and doubtless wiser, than before ! 4

1 These three letters On the Geology of the Lake District, addressed by Sedgwick
to Wordsworth in May, 1842, were published in A complete Guide to the Lakes...
with Mr Wordsworth's description of the scenery of the country, etc., edited by the
publisher, John Hudson of Kendal. A fourth letter was added in 1846, and a
fifth in 1853.

2 The Rev. Richard Gwatkin, Fellow of St John's College, B.A. 1814.

3 Whewell's Life, p. 96.

4 The Excursion, Book the Third.


1822 to This denunciation of a class did not prevent the poet from
l824 ' taking an interest in the pursuits of individual geologists;
39. and the gratitude and admiration which Sedgwick felt for
him can fortunately be recorded in his own words. In the
third of the above letters he says: "Some of the happiest
summers of my life were passed among the Cumbrian moun-
tains, and some of the brightest days of those summers were
spent in your society and guidance. Since then, alas, twenty
years have rolled away ; but I trust that many years of intellec-
tual health may still be granted you ; and that you may continue
to throw your gleams of light through the mazes of human
thought to weave the brightest wreaths of poetic fancy and
to teach your fellow-men the pleasant ways of truth and
goodness, of nature, and pure feeling ; " and again, in the last
of the series, written in 1853, when Wordsworth was no more,
after some regretful musings on his own enfeebled powers,
should he ever revisit Lakeland, he is led to speak of the
friends of whom the district would remind him : " It was near
the summit of Helvellyn that I first met Dal ton 1 a truth-
loving man of rare simplicity of manners ; who, with humble
instruments and very humble means, ministered, without
flinching, in the service of high philosophy, and by the
strength of his own genius won for himself a name greatly
honoured among all the civilized nations of the earth.

" It was, also, during my geological rambles in Cumberland
that I first became acquainted with Southey, that I some-
times shared in the simple intellectual pleasures of his
household, and profited by his boundless stores of knowledge.
He was, to himself, a very hard task-master: but on rare
occasions (as I learnt by happy experience) he could relax
the labours of his study, and plan some joyful excursion
among his neighbouring mountains.

" Most of all, during another visit to the Lakes, should
I have to mourn the loss of Wordsworth ; for he was so far
a man of leisure as to make every natural object around him
1 See above, p. 66.


subservient to the habitual workings of his own mind ; and he 1822 to
was ready for any good occasion that carried him among his
well-loved mountains. Hence it was that he joined me in 39.
many a lusty excursion, and delighted me (amidst the dry
and sometimes almost sterile details of my own study) with
the outpourings of his manly sense, and with the beauteous
and healthy images which were ever starting up within his
mind during his communion with nature, and were embodied,
at the moment, in his own majestic and glowing language."

Sedgwick frequently visited the Lakes again, sometimes
for geological study, sometimes for the pleasure of looking at
scenes in which he had taken so much delight, or of showing
them to others. Many opportunities of recording his im-
pressions of the district will therefore occur, and it might
seem unnecessary to remove letters referring to it from their
proper chronological position. On the whole, however, having
regard to the dearth of contemporary information respecting
the visits of 1822 1824, it seems best to print the two following
letters in this place, as they give, incidentally, so many details
respecting those years. Both were written for the instruction
of geologists who were anxious to explore the Lake district
for themselves.

To Rev. P. B. Brodie 1 .

CAMBRIDGE, September 10, 1854.
My dear Brodie,

First of all, find out my old good friend Jonathan Otley,
the author of the best guide to the Lakes that ever was written 3 .
Tell him you are my friend, and that I wished you to call on him ;
and you may read to him this letter. He will show you maps, &c.
He knows the physical geology of Cumberland, and all the Lake-
land, admirably well. He was the leader in all we know of the
country. I wish, with all my heart, that my letters to Mr Words-
worth on the Geology of Lakeland had been printed in Otley's

1 Rev. Peter Bellenger Brodie, Trinity College, B.A. 1838, M.A. 1842.

2 A descriptive guide to the English Lakes and adjacent Mountains: with
notices of the Botany, Mineralogy, and Geology of the district. By Jonathan
Otley. Eighth edition. Keswick, 1849. In earlier editions (the second was
published in 1825) it was called : A concise description of the English Lakes, etc.


1822 to Guide; but I promised Mr Wordsworth in 1822, before I knew Mr
1824. Jonathan Otley. Ask for a loan of my Letters to Mr Wordsworth ;
.. 37 but they are printed in Hudson's Guide see last edition, which
39- contains a 5th Letter. Secondly: find out Charles Wright a guide
formerly ; and now, I am told, a guide director. You must take what
he says cum grano salis, for he is a bouncer. All Otley tells you, you
may take for Gospel ; for he only tells what he knows. He is a very
clever truth-loving old man. Look at the mining operations at the
back of Skiddaw. About Hesket Newmarket you have good
Mountain Limestone, and a touch of the Old Red. N.B. Old Red
Sandstone above Kirkby Lonsdale bridge, at bottom of Ulswater,
near Shap Wells &c. &c. &c. If you visit it look for fish-scales. I
had good eyes when I worked Lakeland ; but at that time we knew
not of the Old Red fishes ; and I therefore never looked for them.
No fossils in the Skiddaw slate, except a few graptolites and fucoids.
Ruthven found them for me, and Otley will tell you the localities.
If you could give me a list of the minerals turned out at the mines
on both sides of Carrock Fell I should be obliged to you for it. It
might be of great use to me. Also I should greatly thank you for a
good account of the cleavage planes of the slates in Binsey, at the
bottom of Bassenthwaite Lake. Thirdly : my old heart-of-oak
friend John Ruthven lives at Kendal. See him by all means. He
has all Westmoreland at his fingers' ends, and will tell you of all the
fossil localities between the Coniston Limestone and the Old Red
and Mountain Limestone of Kirkby Lonsdale. No fossils have, as
yet, been seen in the slates &c. which alternate with the porphyries
between the Skiddaw slate and the Coniston limestone ; but if you
cross them keep your eyes open ; and possibly you may find some
rare fossil. For when I crossed them again and again (30 years
since) I was looking for sections rather than for fossils. And it is a
good rule to keep a good look-out, and never to take for granted
that no fossils are to be had. If Mr Gough 1 (the surgeon) be at
Kendal, you ought to see him, but I think he is now away in bad
health. You ought to see the Kendal Museum. I am President of
the Society ; and this letter will secure you an introduction and all
needful attention.

There ! I have done my best, in a rough way, to answer your
questions, and I must now complete my dress and prepare for
morning Chapel.

Ever truly yours


To Professor Harkness.

SCALBY near Scarborough, August 29, 1856.
My dear Sir,

Your letter has been long in reaching me, so I fear the
information I can send you may come too late to be of any use.

1 Thomas Gough, of Kendal, an intimate friend of Sedgwick's.


(i) I advise you to go to Kendal and to call on John Ruthven the 1822 to
well-known collector of the northern palaeozoic fossils. He knows 1824.
the country well, and is the only person (so far as I know) who has ^Et. 37
found fossils in the Skiddaw slate. (2) You may procure Hudsorts 39-
Guide to the Lakes ; and in some letters published in an appendix to
it you may see a general account of the several formations, tho' I am
not sure that there is any notice of the Skiddaw slate fossils and
their localities. (3) If old Jonathan Otley, author of an excellent
little book, be still living (I saw him last year when he was turned
ninety) he can give you good advice as to localities, and so can
Charles Wright, one of the Keswick Guides, who went with me in
some of my excursions in 1824. Since that year I have hardly
looked at the Skiddaw slates. You should look at the new black-
lead works somewhere behind Saddle Back, and see the manufactory
at Keswick. I do not remember the name of the locality, though I
saw it (in 1823) along with Mr Otley. These works are, I suspect,
not in a vein, but in a variety of anthracitic slate. So they will give
you the term of comparison you are looking for. I found black
slates in the great Skiddaw Group, from which the dark carbonaceous
colours were discharged by heat. Hence I concluded that such
beds very probably would contain fossils ; so I set Ruthven to work,
and he found fossils graptolites and fucoids not far from the spots
I pointed out to him. But he found no shells or crustaceans.
Since then I have had some doubts about the age of the Skiddaw
Group. It is of enormous thickness, and may well contain one or
two groups of very distinct epochs both physically and palaeontologic-
ally. (4) When you are seeking Skiddaw slate fossils I recommend
you to take up your quarters at Scale Inn, at the foot of Crummock
Lake. Hammer well the gritty rocks which appear in the several
deep ravines which run up the mountains on the left side of the road
from Scale Inn to Buttermere ; they promise well for fossils. I
never examined them for fossils in 1823 and 1824, because I
foolishly thought that they were all below the region of animal life.
At that time I had not quite learned to shake off the Wernerian
nonsense^ I had been taught. (5) Visit Black Coomb in the S. W.
corner of Cumberland. It is of Skiddaw slate, brought up by
enormous dislocations, and its ravines are of good promise. To the
south it is overlaid by the green slate and porphyry zone well
marked, but of degenerate thickness ; and over the green slate you
have in the S. W. extremity of Cumberland the Coniston limestone,
&c., and some appearances, in the cleavage planes, which I think
defy the mere pressure theory. That there has been enormous
compression, along with cleavage planes, no one can doubt, when
the fossils are flattened and distorted. But they are not always
distorted and flattened. You have to account for unflattened con-
cretions, marking, though rarely, the average direction and dip of the

1 In a letter to Lyell, written in 1845, Sedgwick speaks of himself as having
been, in 1819, "eaten up with the Wernerian notions ready to sacrifice my senses
to that creed a Wernerian slave ".


1822 to cleavage planes. You have to account for the frequent change of
1824. cleavage dip when there is no change of conditions of pressure
t. 37 indicated in the sections ; and you have to account for a second
39- cleavage plane among beds that are by no means crystalline.
(6) Visit Coniston, and look at the enormous dislocations &c. You
have there (as also at Broughton in Furness, which you pass through
on your way from Black Coomb to Coniston) the Coniston lime-

Online LibraryJohn Willis ClarkThe life and letters of the Reverend Adam Sedgwick (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 48)