« FöregåendeFortsätt »
a series of experiments connected with the subject. As was to be expected from a man of his genius, he very soon determined many new facts, which were communicated to the Royal Society in several successive papers, the first of which was read November 16th, 1820, and the others in succeeding years.
Though in the possession of wealth and fame, that might be supposed sufficient to gratify the highest ambition of the most aspiring, he continued to interest himself in every thing which concerned the progress of science and the useful arts; and did not hesitate even to engage in laborious experiments in connection with any new inquiry of importance that was started. Toward the latter part of the year 1823, the commissioners of the navy addressed to the president and council of the Royal Society an inquiry concerning the best method of preserving the copper sheathing of ships from corrosion in sea-water; and a committee was appointed for the purpose, for whom Davy undertook to make the necessary investigations. His experiments very soon suggested a remedy, which, upon trial many times, promised complete success; and in January, 1824, he communicated his views to government, informing them he was prepared to carry his plan into effect. The proposition was received with all the attention its importance demanded, and an order given that the plan proposed by Davy should be immediately tried under his own superintendence. As if to increase the mortification of ultimate defeat, the first trials seemed to indicate the most complete success; and various means were taken to give it the greatest possible publicity. But on sufficient trial it was found altogether impracticable; and Davy, and those who had fallen in with his views, found themselves in great error, in consequence of having drawn too hasty conclusions from the experiments made ;—in making up a decision from the experience of a few weeks or months, when that of years only could, from the nature of the case, determine the question. Such was the public confidence in the success of the invention, that, without waiting for the issue, it was adopted at enormous expense by government and by private individuals, and continued for several years, until its “theoretical success” and “practical inefficiency” were fully established. In Sept., 1828, the plan, by order of government, was entirely abandoned.
We have not thought it necessary to enter into the details of this enterprise of Davy's, nor could it be in justice entirely omitted. Besides, it affords an excellent illustration of the character of the man. Ardent, enterprising, ingenious, and industrious, even at a period in which many of the motives that ordinarily actuate the human breast may be supposed to have ceased in a great degree to operate, he is ready to engage with zeal in an undertaking that is to require a great expenditure of thought and labor. Relying entirely upon
his own immense resources, he commences an entirely new course of experiments, settles in a short time many new facts and principles, draws his conclusions, with reference to the particular object of investigation, and with the utmost confidence is ready to proclaim them to the world, and if need be, to put them in practice on the most extensive scale! We need not refer the reader to other instances of a similar character; he will recollect several we have related, and may find numerous others in the “Life” we are reviewing. If with his great ingenuity and almost unparalleled keenness of perception, he established some most important new truths, it is not certainly to be wondered at, that he also made some magnificent failures !
We now approach the termination of the brilliant career of this illustrious individual. Soon after it was ascertained that his plan for protecting the copper sheathing of ships would prove impracticable, it was observed that a degree of disappointment and chagrin was produced in his mind, wholly inconsistent, as Dr. P. remarks, with the merits of the question. His general health began also to decline, being in some degree very probably affected by the state of his mind. In the latter part of the year, while absent from home, he was suddenly seized with apoplexy, which, however, gradually yielded to remedies, but not without producing a partial paralysis of his system. He however continued his field sports, of which he was excessively fond, even after his strength had so far decayed that he was obliged to take a pony with him into the field, “ from which he dismounted only on the certainty of imme
Soon after his partial recovery from his apoplectic attack above noticed, by the advice of his physicians, he left England for the south of Europe, where he spent several months, and returned in the autumn of 1827, his health but little improved by the journey.
In 1828 he again left England for the continent, never to return. His last letter written by himself was dated at Rome, February 6, 1829, where he had been several months, and was addressed to an early friend with whom he had corresponded for many years, and informs him that in a precarious state of health he is gradually “wearing away the winter ;-a ruin among ruins.” He however continued to attend to scientific pursuits, and prepared some papers for the Royal Society, which were subsequently published in their Transactions.
On the 20th of February he was suddenly attacked a second time with apoplexy, which finally proved fatal. As soon as the information reached Lady Davy, who was at London, she hastened to join him; and his brother, Dr. Davy, who was at Malta, arrived the 16th of March. As he was very desirous to visit Geneva, the party left Rome on the 30th of April, and arrived there on the 28t of the next month, where he breathed his last early on the morning of the following day. His remains were honored with a public funeral a few days afterward, and deposited in the public cemetery, where it is believed they yet lie interred, a small tablet only having been erected to his memory by his widow in Westminster Abbey.
Thus closed the career of one of the greatest philosopers of the present age! It may have been remarked by the reader, that as yet we have said nothing of his religious character; nor indeed have we much to say. At one time in early life he appears to have been skeptical with regard to religious matters; but there is abundant evidence that in after years he fully believed in the great truths of Christianity. His general conduct, it is believed, was in accordance with the great principles of morality, and yet it is greatly to be regretted he would not hesitate sometimes to start on a journey on the sabbath, or attend places of vain amusement. Some of his writings are not without considerable indication of pious feeling ; and though there may be before the world little evidence that he ever felt the sanctifying influence of experimental religion upon his heart, it is pleasing to hope, that having by faith in Christ appropriated to himself the benefits of the atonement, he who did so much to render his name immortal among his fellows, may be now in the enjoyment of a blissful immortality above.
Besides his scientific memoirs, most of which were published in the Philosophical Transactions, he published his “Elements of Chimical Philosophy,” in 1812, and his “Elements of Agricultural Chimistry, "the following year. He also, during the few last years of his life, prepared two small works for the press of a more general character, the last of which was published after his death. They are entitled “Salmonia, or Days of Fly-fishing,” and “ Consolations in Travel, or the Last Days of a Philosopher."
His various communications to the Royal Society, all of which it is believed were published in their Transactions, amount to the number of forty-six; the first of which was read June 18, 1801, and the last November 20, 1828.
Wesleyan University, April, 1841.
V.- Patrick Henry. PATRICK Henry was a native of Virginia ; and, although born of very respectable and well-educated parents, yet, on account of the loose discipline which prevailed in the family, as well as a natural indolence and aversion to study on the part of the child, his early tuition was very much neglected, and his youth was spent in the most listless and enervating idleness. We hear of him wandering, for days together, through the fields and woods ; sometimes without any apparent object, and sometimes in the pursuit of game-or, perhaps, stretched on the green bank of some meandering stream, watching the ripples and eddies as they whirled along, or angling in its sparkling waters.
The same love of idleness followed him into the pursuits of business, where he exchanged the pleasures of hunting and angling for the melodies of the flute and violin, and tales of love and war. With such a disposition it is not surprising that there was a fatality in every thing he undertook. Before he was eighteen he was a broken merchant; and immediately after, without any visible means of subsistence, without even bestowing a thought on the future, he became a husband, and soon found himself with a growing family on his hands. By the joint assistance of his father and father-in-law, a small farm was now purchased, and the future Demosthenes of America, and his young bride, placed upon it, and fairly launched upon the wide world. Two years served to wind up his career as a farmer, and, selling his land at a sacrifice to disembarrass himself of debt, he vested the remainder in an adventure of goods, and once more
tried his fortune in trade. His utter failure in the course of another year left him pennyless, and he sought shelter for his wife and little ones at the house of his father-in-law, who kept a tavern at Hanover Court House.
But no misfortune had power to disturb Mr. Henry's unconquerable good nature, or to break his spirit. In the midst of all the difficulties which now hedged him in, he hunted and fished as usual. He applied himself with increased ardor to his flute and violin. He indulged his love of romance; amused himself with history; became a story teller, and the centre of the social and mirthful circles in the neighborhood. At length the thought occurred to him that he might, perhaps, turn a penny by appearing as a counselor in the courts of justice. He accordingly procured some books, and employed a few weeks in reading law. He was indolent, ignorant, awkward in his manners, careless in his dress, and coarse in his whole appearance; but his modesty and good nature made him friends, and after six weeks of careless reading, together with abundant promises of future improvement, he was admitted, at the age of twenty-four, to the Virginia bar.
For the next three or four years Mr. Henry was plunged in. the deepest poverty. He seems to have lived almost entirely on his father-in-law, and to have made himself useful about the house, now waiting on the customers at the bar, and now pursuing his favorite sports, or ravishing his soul with delicious music. Whether he appeared at the courts at all is doubted, and if he did, his practice afforded him nothing like a subsistence. But a brighter day was about to dawn upon his fortunes. The sun of his genius was soon to arise in glory; and the indolent, obscure, and rustic Henry, hitherto like the uncut diamond, was to appear as the chased and gorgeous brilliant, sparkling with a thousand hues.
About the time that Mr. Henry was admitted to the bar, a suit arose in Virginia which elicited very general interest. The Church of England was, at that time, the established church of Virginia, and an annual stipend of sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco was provided for the minister of each parish, by law, and assessed on the planters. The price of tobacco had, for many years, stood at sixteen shillings and eight pence per hundred, but in consequence of the short crop of 1755, it suddenly rose to two or three times its *former value, and the planters procured the passage of a law,