BLTC Press Titles


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The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller


Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner


Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh


Memorials, scientific and literary, of Andrew Crosse, the electrician

by Andrew Crosse

Excerpt:

1805—1821.

It has rarely been the fate of any one to be so associated through a long life with a particular locality as was Andrew Crosse. Broomfield was not only his home, but his abiding-place. The face of nature was as the face of a friend; and there, on those wild Quantock hills, with solitude round about him, and the varying clouds above him, he sought and found sympathy under all the trials of life, and his were not a few.

About twelve months after his mother's death he lost his maternal uncle, Thomas Porter, Esq. of Rockbeare House, Devon. Everything contributed to throw him back upon himself; with few friends but those of his own age, and with no good advisers, it will not be wondered at that he soon got entangled in difficulties. He had no business habits, and was wanting altogether in common prudence; he implicitly trusted, without discrimination, in all those around him. Of course he soon became a dupe to the dishonesty of some, and a victim of his own and others' mismanagement. He used to say, in recurring to this time, "If I were to write a book, its object should be to show the mistakes people make at the commencement of their career. A boy comes from school, or a young man from Oxford or Cambridge, with a taste for the classics, and perhaps some knowledge of mathematics; but what does he understand of the management of his property, the duties of a magistrate, or the ordinary business of life? Agents, ever ready to assist the inexperienced, transact the young landowner's business for him, and his estates soon become involved. After years of discomfort, this truth dawns upon him, that if a man wishes anything to be well done, he must do it himself, and so it goes on; each man buys his own experience, but sometimes it is bought too dear."

For some three or four years, Mr. Crosse's brother and sister resided with him at Fyne Court; their menage was more noted for hospitality than for economy; but they appeared to have been pleasant, happy days, for I have heard him say that he could have lived on for ever as they were living then. About this time Mr. Crosse was a good deal in the society of Theodore Hook, both in Somersetshire and in London; he was with the latter when he played off many of his well-known practical jokes. On one occasion Hook was dining with Mr. Crosse at his London lodgings ; the day was hot, and the windows were thrown open; they were a merry party, and were talking and laughing loudly, when some wag who was passing by threw a penny piece into the room, which fell on the table close by a quarter of lamb that the host was carving. "Ah, mint sauce is good with lamb," cried Theodore Hook. I remember hearing Mr. Crosse say that he was once at a party with Mr. Hook, when a Mr. Winter was announced, a well-known inspector of taxes. Hook immediately roared out, —

"Here comes Mr. Winter, inspector of taxes,
I'd advise ye to give him whate'er he axes,
I'd advise ye to give him, without any flummery,
For though his name's Winter, his actions are summary."

No one loved a joke more than Mr. Crosse, and his anecdotes of this period of his life were very amusing; but he never indulged in any jest which could wound the feelings of another. Theodore Hook, it seems, was not always so particular.

At this period of his life Mr. Crosse intended becoming a member of the Bar, and I believe kept two or three terms, but he soon abandoned all thoughts of the law, and shortly reverted to studies more congenial to his tastes.

He became acquainted with Mr. Singer the electrician, and during the short life of that gentleman (he died at the age of thirty-two) they were frequent companions. Mr. Singer supplied him with his splendid cylindrical electrical machine and battery table, which contained fifty large Leyden jars. The friends spent many pleasant days at Broomfield, in working together at statical electricity. They used also to take long walks over the Quantock hills; for some time they went every evening to one particularly romantic spot, to see the sun set. Mr. Crosse used long after to point out to me the paths they had taken over the hills, and he would recall their conversations together with great satisfaction, the more so, I suspect, because his opportunities of intellectual intercourse were few and far between. About this time Mr. Crosse appears to have worked hard in scientific matters; he was making himself a good practical chemist; he was studying mineralogy, and he kept a journal of electrical experiments. His investigations were principally directed to testing the power of the machine, under different conditions, and ascertaining the equality of the charging power of the positive and negative conductors. The science has so much advanced that the train of research that was then novel and interesting would not deserve the same kind of attention. I will not, therefore, intrude any of this class of experiments upon the reader.


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