Page images

of the Egyptians, was discovered by an Egyptian king; there is, therefore, every reason to believe that it was not the result of accidental combination, but of experiments made for producing or improving colours. Amongst the ancient philosophers many discoveries were attributed to Democritus and Anaxagoras; and, connected with chemical arts, the narrative of the inventions of Archimedes alone, by Plutarch, would seem to show how great is the effect of science in creating power. In modern times the refining of sugar, the preparation of nitre, the manufacturing of acids, salts, &c., are all results of pure chemistry. Take gunpowder as a specimen; no person but a man infinitely diversifying his processes and guided by analogy could have made such a discovery. Look into the books of the alchemists, and some idea may be formed of the effects of experiments. It is true, these persons were guided by false views, yet they made most useful researches; and Lord Bacon has justly compared them to the husbandman, who, searching for an imaginary treasure, fertilized the soil. They might likewise be compared to persons who, looking for gold, discover the fragments of beautiful statues, which separately are of no value, and which appear of little value to the persons who found them; but which, when selected and put together by artists and their defective parts supplied, are found to be wonderfully perfect and worthy of conservation. Look to the progress of the arts since they have been enlightened by a system of science, and observe with what rapidity they have advanced. Again, the steam engine in its rudest form was the result of a chemical experiment; in its refined state, it required the combinations of all the most recondite principles of chemistry and mechanics, and that excellent philosopher who has given this wonderful instrument of power to civil society, was led to the great improvements he made, by the discoveries of a kindred genius on the heat absorbed when water becomes steam, and of the heat evolved when the steam becomes water. Even the most superficial observer must allow in this case a triumph of science, for what a wonderful impulse has this invention given to the progress of the arts and manufactures in our country, how much has it diminished labour, how much has it increased the real strength of the country! Acting as it were with a thousand hands, it has multiplied our active population, and receiving its elements of activity from the bowels of the earth, it performs operations which formerly were painful, oppressive, and unhealthy to the labourers, with regularity and con

stancy, and gives security and precision to the efforts of the manufacturer. And the inventions connected with the steam engine, at the same time that they have greatly diminshed labour of body, have tended to increase power of mind and intellectual resources. Adam Smith well observes that manufacturers are always more ingenious than husbandmen; and manufacturers who use machinery will probably always be found more ingenious than handicraft manufacturers. You spoke of porcelain as a result of accident; the improvements invented in this country, as well as those made in Germany and France, have been entirely the result of chemical experiments; the Dresden and the Sèvres manufactories have been the work of men of science, and it was by multiplying his chemical researches that Wedgewood was enabled to produce at so cheap a rate those beautiful imitations, which, while they surpass the ancient vases in solidity and perfection of material, equal them in elegance, variety, and tasteful arrangement of their forms. In another department, the use of the electrical conductor was à pure scientific combination, and the sublimity of the discovery of the American philosopher was only equalled by the happy application he immediately made of it. In our own times it would be easy to point out numerous instances in which great improvements and beneficial results connected with the comforts, the happiness, and even life of our fellow-creatures, have been the results of scientific combinations; but I cannot do this without constituting myself a judge of the works of philosophers who are still alive, whose researches are known, whose labours are respected, and who will receive from posterity praises that their contemporaries hardly dare to bestow upon them.

But, waving all common utility, all vulgar applications, there is something in knowing and understanding the operation of nature, some pleasure in contemplating the order and harmony of the arrangements belonging to the terrestrial system of things. There is no absolute utility in poetry; but it gives pleasure, refines and exalts the mind. Philosophic pursuits have likewise a noble and independent use of this kind; and there is a double reason offered for pursuing them, for, whilst in their sublime speculations they reach to the heavens, in their application they belong to the earth ; whilst they exalt the intellect, they provide food for our common wants, and likewise minister to the noblest appetites and most exalted views belonging to our nature. The results of this science are not like the temples of the ancients, in which statues of the Gods were placed, where incense was offered and sacrifices were performed, and which were presented to the adoration of the multitude, founded upon superstitious feelings; but they are rather like the palaces of the moderns to be admired and used, and where the statues, which in the ancients raised feelings of adoration and awe, now produce only feelings of pleasure and gratify a refined taste. It is surely a pure delight to know how and by what processes this earth is clothed with verdure and life, how the clouds, mists, and rain are formed, what causes all the changes of this terrestrial system of things, and by what divine laws order is preserved amidst apparent confusion. It is a sublime occupation to in-. vestigate the cause of the tempest and the volcano, and to point out their use in the economy of things, to bring the lightning from the clouds and make it subservient to our experiments,—to produce as it were a microcosm in the laboratory of art, and to measure and weigh those invisible atoms, which, by their motions and changes, according to laws impressed upon them by the divine intelligence, constitute the universe of things. The true chemical philosopher sees good in all the diversified forms of the external world. Whilst he investigates the operations of infinite power guided by infinite wisdom, all low prejudices, all mean superstitions, disappear from his mind. He sees man an atom amidst atoms fixed upon a point in space, and yet modifying the laws that are around him by understanding them; and gaining, as it were, a kind of dominion over time, and an empire in material space, and exerting on a scale infinitely small a power seeming a sort of shadow or reflection of a creative energy, and which entitles him to the distinction of being made in the image of God and animated by a spark of the divine mind. Whilst chemical pursuits exalt the understanding, they do not depress the imagination or weaken genuine feelings; whilst they give the mind habits of accuracy, by obliging it to attend to facts, they likewise extend its analogies, and, though conversant with the minute forms of things, they have for their ultimate end the great and magnificent objects of nature. They regard the formation of a crystal, the structure of a pebble, the nature of a clay or earth; and they apply to the causes of the diversity of our mountain chains, the appearances of the winds, thunder-storms, meteors, the earthquake, the volcano, and all those phenomena which offer the

most striking images to the poet and the painter. They keep alive that inextinguishable thirst after knowledge, which is one of the greatest characteristics of our nature; for every discovery opens a new field for investigation of facts, shows us the imperfection of our theories. It has justly been said, that the greater the circle of light, the greater the boundary of darkness by which it is surrounded. This strictly applies to chemical inquiries; and, hence they are wonderfully suited to the progressive nature of the human intellect, which by its increasing efforts to acquire a higher kind of wisdom, and a state in which truth is fully and brightly revealed, seems, as it were, to demonstrate its birthright to immortality.


Bacon, Men in great place are thrice servants : servants of the sovereign or state; servants of fame; and servants of business. So as they have no freedom, neither in their persons ; nor in their actions; nor in their times. It is a strange desire to seek power, and to lose liberty ; or to seek power over others, and to lose power over a man's self. The rising unto place is laborious; and by pains men come to greater pains ; and it is sometimes base; and by indignities, men come to dignities. The standing is slippery, and the regress is either a downfall, or at least an eclipse, which is a melancholy thing: Cum non sis, qui fueris, non esse, cur velis vivere* ? Nay, retire men cannot when they would ; neither will they when it were reason: but are impatient of privateness, even in age and sickness, which require the shadow ; like old townsmen that will be still sitting at their street door, though thereby they offer age to scorn. Certainly, great persons had need to borrow other men's opinions to think themselves happy; for if they judge by their own feeling, they cannot find it; but if they think with themselves what other men think of them, and that other men would fain be as they are, then they are happy, as it were by report, when perhaps they find the contrary within. For they are the first that find their own griefs; though they be the last that find their own faults. Certainly, men in great fortunes are strangers to themselves ; and while they are in the push of business, they have no time to tend their health, either of body or mind. Illi Mars gravis incubat, qui notus nimis omnibus, ignotus moritur sibi*. In place, there is licence to do good and evil; whereof the latter is a curse; for in evil the best condition is not to will; the second, not to care. But power to do good is the true and lawful end of aspiring. For good thoughts (though God accept them), yet towards men are little better than good dreams, except they be put in act, and that cannot be without power and place, as the vantage and commanding ground. Merit and good works is the end of man's motion; and conscience of the same is the accomplishment of man's rest. For if a man can be partaker of God's theatre he shall likewise be partaker of God's rest. Et conversus Deus, ut aspiceret opera, que fecerunt manus sua, vidit quod omnia essent bona nimist; and then the Sabbath. In the discharge of thy place set before thee the best examples; for imitation is a globe of precepts. And after a time set before thee thine own example; and examine thyself strictly whether thou didst not best at first. Neglect not also the examples of those that have carried themselves ill in the same place; not to set off ths. self by taxing their memory, but to direct thyself what to avoid. Reform therefore, without bravery or scandal of former times and persons; but yet, set it down to thyself as well to create good precedents, as to follow them. Reduce things to the first institution, and observe wherein and how they have degenerate, but yet ask counsel of both times; of the ancient time what is best; and of the latter time what is fittest. Seek to make thy course regular, that men may know beforehand what they may expect; but be not too positive and peremptory; and express thyself well when thou digressest from thy rule. Preserve the right of thy place, but stir not questions of jurisdiction. And rather assume thy right in silence, and de facto, than voice it with claims and challenges. Preserve likewise the rights of inferior places, and think it more honour to direct in chief. than to be busy in all. Embrace and invite helps and advices touching the execution of thy place, and do not drive away such as bring thee information, as meddlers, but accept of them in good part. The

* Since you are no longer what you were, there is no reason why you should desire to live as a nonentity.

* Death is a severe infliction on him who dies well known to others, and unknown to himself.

+ And when God turned to behold all the works which his hand had made, he saw that they were very good.

« PreviousContinue »