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Illustrations of Character.

Thus far I have confined myself to topics mainly interesting to the man of science, endeavouring, however, to treat them in a manner unrepellent to the general reader who might wish to obtain a notion of Faraday as a worker. On others will fall the duty of presenting to the world a picture of the man. But I know you will permit me to add to the foregoing analysis a few personal reminiscences and remarks, tending to connect Faraday with a wider world than that of science-namely, with the general human heart.

One word in reference to his married life, in addition to what has been already said, may find a place here. As in the former case, Faraday shall be his own spokesman. The following paragraph, though written in the third person, is from his hand:-’On June 12, 1821, he married, an event which more than any other contributed to his earthly happiness and healthful state of mind. The union has continued for twenty-eight years and has in no wise changed, except in the depth and strength of its character.’

Faraday’s immediate forefathers lived in a little place called Clapham Wood Hall, in Yorkshire. Here dwelt Robert Faraday and Elizabeth his wife, who had ten children, one of them, James Faraday, born in 1761, being father to the philosopher. A family tradition exists that the Faradays came originally from Ireland. Faraday himself has more than once expressed to me his belief that his blood was in part Celtic, but how much of it was so, or when the infusion took place, he was unable to say. He could imitate the Irish brogue, and his wonderful vivacity may have been in part due to his extraction. But there were other qualities which we should hardly think of deriving from Ireland. The most prominent of these was his sense of order, which ran like a luminous beam through all the transactions of his life. The most entangled and complicated matters fell into harmony in his hands. His mode of keeping accounts excited the admiration of the managing board of this Institution. And his science was similarly ordered. In his Experimental Researches, he numbered every paragraph, and welded their various parts together by incessant reference. His private notes of the Experimental Researches, which are happily preserved, are similarly numbered: their last paragraph bears the figure 16,041. His working qualities, moreover, showed the tenacity of the Teuton. His nature was impulsive, but there was a force behind the impulse which did not permit it to retreat. If in his warm moments he formed a resolution, in his cool ones he made that resolution good. Thus his fire was that of a solid combustible, not that of a gas, which blazes suddenly, and dies as suddenly away.

And here I must claim your tolerance for the limits by which I am confined. No materials for a life of Faraday are in my hands, and what I have now to say has arisen almost wholly out of our close personal relationship.

Letters of his, covering a period of sixteen years, are before me, each one of which contains some characteristic utterance;-strong, yet delicate in counsel, joyful in encouragement, and warm in affection. References which would be pleasant to such of them as still live are made to Humboldt, Biot, Dumas, Chevreul, Magnus, and Arago. Accident brought these names prominently forward; but many others would be required to complete his list of continental friends. He prized the love and sympathy of men-prized it almost more than the renown which his science brought him. Nearly a dozen years ago it fell to my lot to write a review of his ‘Experimental Researches’ for the ’Philosophical Magazine.’ After he had read it, he took me by the hand, and said, ’Tyndall, the sweetest reward of my work is the sympathy and good will which it has caused to flow in upon me from all quarters of the world.’ Among his letters I find little sparks of kindness, precious to no one but myself, but more precious to me than all. He would peep into the laboratory when he thought me weary, and take me upstairs with him to rest. And if I happened to be absent, he would leave a little note for me, couched in this or some other similar form:-’Dear Tyndall,-I was looking for you, because we were at tea-we have not yet done-will you come up?’ I frequently shared his early dinner; almost always, in fact, while my lectures were going on. There was no trace of asceticism in his nature. He preferred the meat and wine of life to its locusts and wild honey. Never once during an intimacy of fifteen years did he mention religion to me, save when I drew him on to the subject. He then spoke to me without hesitation or reluctance; not with any apparent desire to ‘improve the occasion,’ but to give me such information as I sought. He believed the human heart to be swayed by a power to which science or logic opened no approach, and, right or wrong, this faith, held in perfect tolerance of the faiths of others, strengthened and beautified his life.

From the letters just referred to, I will select three for publication here. I choose the first, because it contains a passage revealing the feelings with which Faraday regarded his vocation, and also because it contains an allusion which will give pleasure to a friend.

’Royal Institution. [ this is crossed out by Faraday ]

’Ventnor, Isle of Wight, June 28, 1854.

’My Dear Tyndall,-You see by the top of this letter how much habit prevails over me; I have just read yours from thence, and yet I think myself there. However, I have left its science in very good keeping, and I am glad to learn that you are at experiment once more. But how is the health? Not well, I fear. I wish you would get yourself strong first and work afterwards. As for the fruits, I am sure they will be good, for though I sometimes despond as regards myself, I do not as regards you. You are young, I am old.... But then our subjects are so glorious, that to work at them rejoices and encourages the feeblest; delights and enchants the strongest.

’I have not yet seen anything from Magnus. Thoughts of him always delight me. We shall look at his black sulphur together. I heard from Schonbein the other day. He tells me that Liebig is full of ozone, i.e., of allotropic oxygen.

’Good-bye for the present.

’Ever, my dear Tyndall,

’Yours truly,

‘M. Faraday.’

The contemplation of Nature, and his own relation to her, produced in Faraday a kind of spiritual exaltation which makes itself manifest here. His religious feeling and his philosophy could not be kept apart; there was an habitual overflow of the one into the other.

Whether he or another was its exponent, he appeared to take equal delight in science. A good experiment would make him almost dance with delight. In November, 1850, he wrote to me thus:-’I hope some day to take up the point respecting the magnetism of associated particles. In the meantime I rejoice at every addition to the facts and reasoning connected with the subject. When science is a republic, then it gains: and though I am no republican in other matters, I am in that.’ All his letters illustrate this catholicity of feeling. Ten years ago, when going down to Brighton, he carried with him a little paper I had just completed, and afterwards wrote to me. His letter is a mere sample of the sympathy which he always showed to me and my work.

’Brighton, December 9, 1857.

’My Dear Tyndall,-I cannot resist the pleasure of saying how very much I have enjoyed your paper. Every part has given me delight. It goes on from point to point beautifully. You will find many pencil marks, for I made them as I read. I let them stand, for though many of them receive their answer as the story proceeds, yet they show how the wording impresses a mind fresh to the subject, and perhaps here and there you may like to alter it slightly, if you wish the full idea, i.e., not an inaccurate one, to be suggested at first; and yet after all I believe it is not your exposition, but the natural jumping to a conclusion that affects or has affected my pencil.

’We return on Friday, when I will return you the paper.

’Ever truly yours,

‘M. Faraday.’

The third letter will come in its proper place towards the end.

While once conversing with Faraday on science, in its relations to commerce and litigation, he said to me, that at a certain period of his career, he was forced definitely to ask himself, and finally to decide whether he should make wealth or science the pursuit of his life. He could not serve both masters, and he was therefore compelled to choose between them. After the discovery of magneto-electricity his fame was so noised abroad, that the commercial world would hardly have considered any remuneration too high for the aid of abilities like his. Even before he became so famous, he had done a little ‘professional business.’ This was the phrase he applied to his purely commercial work. His friend, Richard Phillips, for example, had induced him to undertake a number of analyses, which produced, in the year 1830, an addition to his income of more than a thousand pounds; and in 1831 a still greater addition. He had only to will it to raise in 1832 his professional business income to 5000L. a year. Indeed double this sum would be a wholly insufficient estimate of what he might, with ease, have realised annually during the last thirty years of his life.

While restudying the Experimental Researches with reference to the present memoir, the conversation with Faraday here alluded to came to my recollection, and I sought to ascertain the period when the question, ‘wealth or science,’ had presented itself with such emphasis to his mind. I fixed upon the year 1831 or 1832, for it seemed beyond the range of human power to pursue science as he had done during the subsequent years, and to pursue commercial work at the same time. To test this conclusion I asked permission to see his accounts, and on my own responsibility, I will state the result. In 1832, his professional business income, instead of rising to 5000L., or more, fell from 1090s. to 155s. From this it fell with slight oscillations to 92L. in 1837, and to zero in 1838. Between 1839 and 1845, it never, except in one instance, exceeded 22L.; being for the most part much under this. The exceptional year referred to was that in which he and Sir Charles Lyell were engaged by Government to write a report on the Haswell Colliery explosion, and then his business income rose to 112L. From the end of 1845 to the day of his death, Faraday’s annual professional business income was exactly zero. Taking the duration of his life into account, this son of a blacksmith, and apprentice to a bookbinder, had to decide between a fortune of 150,000L. on the one side, and his undowered science on the other. He chose the latter, and died a poor man. But his was the glory of holding aloft among the nations the scientific name of England for a period of forty years.

The outward and visible signs of fame were also of less account to him than to most men. He had been loaded with scientific honours from all parts of the world. Without, I imagine, a dissentient voice, he was regarded as the prince of the physical investigators of the present age. The highest scientific position in this country he had, however, never filled. When the late excellent and lamented Lord Wrottesley resigned the presidency of the Royal Society, a deputation from the council, consisting of his Lordship, Mr. Grove, and Mr. Gassiot, waited upon Faraday, to urge him to accept the president’s chair. All that argument or friendly persuasion could do was done to induce him to yield to the wishes of the council, which was also the unanimous wish of scientific men. A knowledge of the quickness of his own nature had induced in Faraday the habit of requiring an interval of reflection, before he decided upon any question of importance. In the present instance he followed his usual habit, and begged for a little time.

On the following morning, I went up to his room and said on entering that I had come to him with some anxiety of mind. He demanded its cause, and I responded:-’Lest you should have decided against the wishes of the deputation that waited on you yesterday.’ ’You would not urge me to undertake this responsibility,’ he said. ‘I not only urge you,’ was my reply, ‘but I consider it your bounden duty to accept it.’ He spoke of the labour that it would involve; urged that it was not in his nature to take things easy; and that if he became president, he would surely have to stir many new questions, and agitate for some changes. I said that in such cases he would find himself supported by the youth and strength of the Royal Society. This, however, did not seem to satisfy him. Mrs. Faraday came into the room, and he appealed to her. Her decision was adverse, and I deprecated her decision. ‘Tyndall,’ he said at length, ’I must remain plain Michael Faraday to the last; and let me now tell you, that if I accepted the honour which the Royal Society desires to confer upon me, I would not answer for the integrity of my intellect for a single year.’ I urged him no more, and Lord Wrottesley had a most worthy successor in Sir Benjamin Brodie.

After the death of the Duke of Northumberland, our Board of Managers wished to see Mr. Faraday finish his career as President of the Institution, which he had entered on weekly wages more than half a century before. But he would have nothing to do with the presidency. He wished for rest, and the reverent affection of his friends was to him infinitely more precious than all the honours of official life.

The first requisite of the intellectual life of Faraday was the independence of his mind; and though prompt to urge obedience where obedience was due, with every right assertion of manhood he intensely sympathized. Even rashness on the side of honour found from him ready forgiveness, if not open applause. The wisdom of years, tempered by a character of this kind, rendered his counsel peculiarly precious to men sensitive like himself. I often sought that counsel, and, with your permission, will illustrate its character by one or two typical instances.

In 1855, I was appointed examiner under the Council for Military Education. At that time, as indeed now, I entertained strong convictions as to the enormous utility of physical science to officers of artillery and engineers, and whenever opportunity offered, I expressed this conviction without reserve. I did not think the recognition, though considerable, accorded to physical science in those examinations at all proportionate to its importance; and this probably rendered me more jealous than I otherwise should have been of its claims.

In Trinity College, Dublin, a school had been organized with reference to the Woolwich examinations, and a large number of exceedingly well-instructed young gentlemen were sent over from Dublin, to compete for appointments in the artillery and the engineers. The result of one examination was particularly satisfactory to me; indeed the marks obtained appeared so eloquent that I forbore saying a word about them. My colleagues, however, followed the usual custom of sending in brief reports with their returns of marks. After the results were published, a leading article appeared in ‘The Times,’ in which the reports were largely quoted, praise being bestowed on all the candidates, except the excellent young fellows who had passed through my hands.

A letter from Trinity College drew my attention to this article, bitterly complaining that whereas the marks proved them to be the best of all, the science candidates were wholly ignored. I tried to set matters right by publishing, on my own responsibility, a letter in ‘The Times.’ The act, I knew, could not bear justification from the War Office point of view; and I expected and risked the displeasure of my superiors. The merited reprimand promptly came. ’Highly as the Secretary of State for War might value the expression of Professor Tyndall’s opinion, he begged to say that an examiner, appointed by His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, had no right to appear in the public papers as Professor Tyndall has done, without the sanction of the War Office.’ Nothing could be more just than this reproof, but I did not like to rest under it. I wrote a reply, and previous to sending it took it up to Faraday. We sat together before his fire, and he looked very earnest as he rubbed his hands and pondered. The following conversation then passed between us:-

F. You certainly have received a reprimand, Tyndall; but the matter is over, and if you wish to accept the reproof, you will hear no more about it.

T. But I do not wish to accept it.

F. Then you know what the consequence of sending that letter will be?

T. I do.

F. They will dismiss you.

T. I know it.

F. Then send the letter!

The letter was firm, but respectful; it acknowledged the justice of the censure, but expressed neither repentance nor regret. Faraday, in his gracious way, slightly altered a sentence or two to make it more respectful still. It was duly sent, and on the following day I entered the Institution with the conviction that my dismissal was there before me. Weeks, however, passed. At length the well-known envelope appeared, and I broke the seal, not doubting the contents. They were very different from what I expected. ’The Secretary of State for War has received Professor Tyndall’s letter, and deems the explanation therein given perfectly satisfactory.’ I have often wished for an opportunity of publicly acknowledging this liberal treatment, proving, as it did, that Lord Panmure could discern and make allowance for a good intention, though it involved an offence against routine. For many years subsequently it was my privilege to act under that excellent body, the Council for Military Education.

On another occasion of this kind, having encouraged me in a somewhat hardy resolution I had formed, Faraday backed his encouragement by an illustration drawn from his own life. The subject will interest you, and it is so sure to be talked about in the world, that no avoidable harm can rise from its introduction here.

In the year 1835, Sir Robert Peel wished to offer Faraday a pension, but that great statesman quitted office before he was able to realise his wish. The Minister who founded these pensions intended them, I believe, to be marks of honour which even proud men might accept without compromise of independence. When, however, the intimation first reached Faraday in an unofficial way, he wrote a letter announcing his determination to decline the pension; and stating that he was quite competent to earn his livelihood himself. That letter still exists, but it was never sent, Faraday’s repugnance having been overruled by his friends. When Lord Melbourne came into office, he desired to see Faraday; and probably in utter ignorance of the man-for unhappily for them and us, Ministers of State in England are only too often ignorant of great Englishmen-his Lordship said something that must have deeply displeased his visitor. All the circumstances were once communicated to me, but I have forgotten the details. The term ‘humbug,’ I think, was incautiously employed by his Lordship, and other expressions were used of a similar kind. Faraday quitted the Minister with his own resolves, and that evening he left his card and a short and decisive note at the residence of Lord Melbourne, stating that he had manifestly mistaken his Lordship’s intention of honouring science in his person, and declining to have anything whatever to do with the proposed pension. The good-humoured nobleman at first considered the matter a capital joke; but he was afterwards led to look at it more seriously. An excellent lady, who was a friend both to Faraday and the Minister, tried to arrange matters between them; but she found Faraday very difficult to move from the position he had assumed. After many fruitless efforts, she at length begged of him to state what he would require of Lord Melbourne to induce him to change his mind. He replied, ’I should require from his Lordship what I have no right or reason to expect that he would grant-a written apology for the words he permitted himself to use to me.’ The required apology came, frank and full, creditable, I thought, alike to the Prime Minister and the philosopher.

Considering the enormous strain imposed on Faraday’s intellect, the boy-like buoyancy even of his later years was astonishing. He was often prostrate, but he had immense resiliency, which he brought into action by getting away from London whenever his health failed. I have already indicated the thoughts which filled his mind during the evening of his life. He brooded on magnetic media and lines of force; and the great object of the last investigation he ever undertook was the decision of the question whether magnetic force requires time for its propagation. How he proposed to attack this subject we may never know. But he has left some beautiful apparatus behind; delicate wheels and pinions, and associated mirrors, which were to have been employed in the investigation. The mere conception of such an inquiry is an illustration of his strength and hopefulness, and it is impossible to say to what results it might have led him. But the work was too heavy for his tired brain. It was long before he could bring himself to relinquish it and during this struggle he often suffered from fatigue of mind. It was at this period, and before he resigned himself to the repose which marked the last two years of his life, that he wrote to me the following letter-one of many priceless letters now before me-which reveals, more than anything another pen could express, the state of his mind at the time. I was sometimes censured in his presence for my doings in the Alps, but his constant reply was, ’Let him alone, he knows how to take care of himself.’ In this letter, anxiety on this score reveals itself for the first time.

’Hampton Court, August 1, 1864.

’My Dear Tyndall,-I do not know whether my letter will catch you, but I will risk it, though feeling very unfit to communicate with a man whose life is as vivid and active as yours; but the receipt of your kind letter makes me to know that, though I forget, I am not forgotten, and though I am not able to remember at the end of a line what was said at the beginning of it, the imperfect marks will convey to you some sense of what I long to say. We had heard of your illness through Miss Moore, and I was therefore very glad to learn that you are now quite well; do not run too many risks or make your happiness depend too much upon dangers, or the hunting of them. Sometimes the very thinking of you, and what you may be about, wearies me with fears, and then the cogitations pause and change, but without giving me rest. I know that much of this depends upon my own worn-out nature, and I do not know why I write it, save that when I write to you I cannot help thinking it, and the thoughts stand in the way of other matter.

’See what a strange desultory epistle I am writing to you, and yet I feel so weary that I long to leave my desk and go to the couch.

’My dear wife and Jane desire their kindest remembrances: I hear them in the next room:... I forget-but not you, my dear Tyndall, for I am

’Ever yours,

‘M. Faraday.’

This weariness subsided when he relinquished his work, and I have a cheerful letter from him, written in the autumn of 1865. But towards the close of that year he had an attack of illness, from which he never completely rallied. He continued to attend the Friday Evening Meetings, but the advance of infirmity was apparent to us all. Complete rest became finally essential to him, and he ceased to appear among us. There was no pain in his decline to trouble the memory of those who loved him. Slowly and peacefully he sank towards his final rest, and when it came, his death was a falling asleep. In the fulness of his honours and of his age he quitted us; the good fight fought, the work of duty-shall I not say of glory?-done. The ‘Jane’ referred to in the foregoing letter is Faraday’s niece, Miss Jane Barnard, who with an affection raised almost to religious devotion watched him and tended him to the end.

I saw Mr. Faraday for the first time on my return from Marburg in 1850. I came to the Royal Institution, and sent up my card, with a copy of the paper which Knoblauch and myself had just completed. He came down and conversed with me for half an hour. I could not fail to remark the wonderful play of intellect and kindly feeling exhibited by his countenance. When he was in good health the question of his age would never occur to you. In the light and laughter of his eyes you never thought of his grey hairs. He was then on the point of publishing one of his papers on Magnecrystallic action, and he had time to refer in a flattering Note to the memoir I placed in his hands. I returned to Germany, worked there for nearly another year, and in June, 1851, came back finally from Berlin to England. Then, for the first time, and on my way to the meeting of the British Association, at Ipswich, I met a man who has since made his mark upon the intellect of his time; who has long been, and who by the strong law of natural affinity must continue to be, a brother to me. We were both without definite outlook at the time, needing proper work, and only anxious to have it to perform. The chairs of Natural History and of Physics being advertised as vacant in the University of Toronto, we applied for them, he for the one, I for the other; but, possibly guided by a prophetic instinct, the University authorities declined having anything to do with either of us. If I remember aright, we were equally unlucky elsewhere.

One of Faraday’s earliest letters to me had reference to this Toronto business, which he thought it unwise in me to neglect. But Toronto had its own notions, and in 1853, at the instance of Dr. Bence Jones, and on the recommendation of Faraday himself, a chair of Physics at the Royal Institution was offered to me. I was tempted at the same time to go elsewhere, but a strong attraction drew me to his side. Let me say that it was mainly his and other friendships, precious to me beyond all expression, that caused me to value my position here more highly than any other that could be offered to me in this land. Nor is it for its honour, though surely that is great, but for the strong personal ties that bind me to it, that I now chiefly prize this place. You might not credit me were I to tell you how lightly I value the honour of being Faraday’s successor compared with the honour of having been Faraday’s friend. His friendship was energy and inspiration; his ‘mantle’ is a burden almost too heavy to be borne.

Sometimes during the last year of his life, by the permission or invitation of Mrs. Faraday, I went up to his rooms to see him. The deep radiance, which in his time of strength flashed with such extraordinary power from his countenance, had subsided to a calm and kindly light, by which my latest memory of him is warmed and illuminated. I knelt one day beside him on the carpet and placed my hand upon his knee; he stroked it affectionately, smiled, and murmured, in a low soft voice, the last words that I remember as having been spoken to me by Michael Faraday.

It was my wish and aspiration to play the part of Schiller to this Goethe: and he was at times so strong and joyful-his body so active, and his intellect so clear-as to suggest to me the thought that he, like Goethe, would see the younger man laid low. Destiny ruled otherwise, and now he is but a memory to us all. Surely no memory could be more beautiful. He was equally rich in mind and heart. The fairest traits of a character sketched by Paul, found in him perfect illustration. For he was ’blameless, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, apt to teach, not given to filthy lucre.’ He had not a trace of worldly ambition; he declared his duty to his Sovereign by going to the levee once a year, but beyond this he never sought contact with the great. The life of his spirit and of his intellect was so full, that the things which men most strive after were absolutely indifferent to him. ’Give me health and a day,’ says the brave Emerson, ’and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous.’ In an eminent degree Faraday could say the same. What to him was the splendour of a palace compared with a thunderstorm upon Brighton Downs?-what among all the appliances of royalty to compare with the setting sun? I refer to a thunderstorm and a sunset, because these things excited a kind of ecstasy in his mind, and to a mind open to such ecstasy the pomps and pleasures of the world are usually of small account. Nature, not education, rendered Faraday strong and refined. A favourite experiment of his own was representative of himself. He loved to show that water in crystallizing excluded all foreign ingredients, however intimately they might be mixed with it. Out of acids, alkalis, or saline solutions, the crystal came sweet and pure. By some such natural process in the formation of this man, beauty and nobleness coalesced, to the exclusion of everything vulgar and low. He did not learn his gentleness in the world, for he withdrew himself from its culture; and still this land of England contained no truer gentleman than he. Not half his greatness was incorporate in his science, for science could not reveal the bravery and delicacy of his heart.

But it is time that I should end these weak words, and lay my poor garland on the grave of this

Just and faithful knight of God.