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Corn.-Written in what language?
Arn. He is, unless by ill luck, he should fall into the hands of a spirit that does not understand Latin; it will then be necessary for him to return to Rome and obtain a new certificate.
Corn.--Are bulls sold there even to the dead?
Corn.-But meanwhile I must give you a hint, not to make any inconsiderate remarks, for now every place abounds with talebearers.
Arn.-Oh! I do not at all depreciate indulgences; I only smile at the folly of my pot-fellow, who being in others respects the merest trifler, yet rested the stem and stern, as they say, of his salvation upon parchments, rather than in amendment of the heart.
EVERY life is a lesson; and the life and career of genius, whatever may have been its motives or its objects, cannot fail to be an useful one. We look with respect and admiration on the development of Mind, whether employed in planning or carrying out a rail-road, or a piece of machinery; or in studying the sublimities of Revelation. Its manifold workings are always deserving of intensest scrutiny, because we feel assured that what man has done man may do again, and that by watching these workings we are likely to attain to the secret of true greatness in mental effort.
We do not therefore propose to confine ourselves, in these sketches, to characters distinguished only in the religious world; but shall, from time to time, attempt biographies of any individual of note, from whose example or experience we see a prospect of learning any thing conducive to the instruction, education, or discipline of the mind.
MARC ISAMBART BRUNEL, the subject of our present sketch, was by birth a Frenchman, but his life and genius were almost
wholly devoted to the invention and construction of works of great public utility in this country.
He was born at Hacqueville, in Normandy, in the year 1769. His family has for many centuries held, and now hold, the estate on which he was born. He was educated for the church, and was accordingly sent at an early age to the seminary of St. Nicain, at Rouen. But he soon evinced so strong a predeliction for the physical sciences, and so great a genius for mathematics, that the superiors of the establishment recommended he should be educated for some other profession.
His father strongly objected to his adopting the profession of an engineer, and he therefore determined that he should be educated for the naval service. At the proper age he entered the royal navy, being indebted for his appointment to the Mareschal de Castries, then the Minister of Marine. On one occasion he surprised his captain by producing a sextant and quadrant of his own construction, and which he used for making observations. He made several voyages to the West Indies, and returned home in 1792. At this time the French revolution was at its height. As Mr. Brunel entertained royalist opinions, which he was not very careful to suppress, his life was more than once in danger, and he was, like many others at that time, forced to seek safety in flight.
Such is the unhappy result of injudicious interference with the promptings of nature. We look upon first thoughts as almost sacred. The unsophisticated bent of a child's mind is a much safer guide, than the ambition or avarice of the parent. To educate a son for the church, because, perhaps, a prospect of preferment is held out in that direction, is unphilosophical as well as wicked. And then, after a second warning that the child is not in his proper niche, to force him into the navy is still worse. No matter whether he is to cure souls, or to kill bodies, both professions are genteel, and possibly lucrative; and he is equally qualified for either, hating one, and despising the other! How absurd !
But this thwarting of the young mind is to be itself thwarted. He emigrated to the United States, where necessity, fortunately, compelled him to follow the natural bent of his mind, and to adopt the profession of a civil engineer. He was first
engaged to survey a large tract of land near Lake Erie. He was employed in building the Bowery Theatre, in New York, which not many years ago was burnt down. He furnished plans for canals, and for various machines connected with a cannon foundry then being established in the state of New York.
Surveying, building, engineering, cannon-boring-all are alike to our young man, educated for the church and then forcibly transplanted to the navy! How, when, where, did he pick up all his practical knowledge of these things ? Not in his ordinary vocations, certainly, but out of them. Thought did much more for him than books or navigation.
What a vast field do these considerations open for our young readers. Whatever the routine-duties of your life, depend upon it there is room for other work. Thought is always at homealways busy. The outward and visible in the life of Brunel were as nothing to the deep, full, glorious under-current; they served rather to disguise than to develop. Why should it not be so with you-with all ?
About the year 1799 he had matured his plans for making ship-blocks by machinery. The United States was not then the field for so inventive a genius as Brunel's. He determined upon visiting England, and offering his services and plans for this purpose to the British government. Lord Spencer, then we believe First Lord of the Admiralty, became his friend and patron. He became a frequent guest at Spencer House. After much opposition to his plans, he was employed to execute them in Portsmouth dock-yard. To perfect his designs, and to erect the machinery, was the arduous labor of many years. With a true discrimination he selected Mr. Henry Maudsley to assist in the execution of the work. The block machinery was finished in 1806, and has continued ever since in full operation, supplying our fleet with blocks of a very superior description to those previously in use, and at a large annual saving to the public. It was estimated at the time that the saving in the first year amounted to 24,0001. per annum; and about twothirds of that sum were awarded to Mr. Brunel. Even, after the lapse of forty years, notwithstanding the marvellously rapid strides we have made in the improvement and construction of machines of all kinds, it remains as effective as it was when first erected, and unaltered.
We have seen what “opposition" did in the education of our embryo engineer. The young man of thirty has not yet done with it.—“ After much opposition to his plans” he was employed to carry them out! Nothing escapes this ordeal, if it be really good; but nothing can be seriously injured by it eventually. The holiest scheme ever introduced into our world has met with more determined and desperate hostility than any other. “ Thank God and take courage!" should be our motto in every emergency where the cause is one of progress, light, or love.
A few years afterwards he was employed by government to erect sawmills, upon a new principle, in the dockyards of Chatham and Woolwich. Several other inventions were the offspring of his singularly fertile mind about this time,—the circular saw, for cutting veneers of valuable woods; and the beautiful little machine for winding cotton thread into balls, which greatly extended its consumption. About two years before the termination of the war, Mr. Brunel, under the countenance of the Duke of York, invented a machine for making shoes for the army by machinery, the value and cheapness of which were fully appreciated, and they were extensively used; but, the Peace of 1815 lessening the demand, the machinery was ultimately laid aside. Steam navigation also at that time attracted his attention. He was engaged in the building of one of the first Ramsgate steam-boats, and, we believe, introduced the principle of the double engine for the purpose. He also induced the Admiralty to allow him to build a vessel to try the experiment of towing ships out to sea, the possibility of which was then denied. Many other objects of great public utility occupied his mind, which in this mere outline of a long and active life must be excluded.
The versatility of his genius was not one of the least striking features of Mr. Brunel's character. At
time he was building a steam-boat, at another making shoes. Now he is inventing saw-mills on an extensive scale for the navy; and now winding off miniature balls of cotton. A canal, a steam engine,
a spinning reel, were all alike to him. Nor
a tunnel, or
was his the only mind gifted with such multiform capacity. In this formal age a man too often walks between walls-he does things as they have always been done his field of labor is drilled, never broad-cast; and though perhaps one end is secured the better for it, that end is only useful to himself.: But still he must not “go out of his way.” With mental efforts it is far otherwise. Mind, like the chaos of the ancients, contains “ the seeds of all things," as their cosmogonists expressed it; and those who do their best to cultivate these seeds, will find the produce as varied as it is ample. The same outward calling has but one phase—the same inner principle, a thousand. The life which makes a man diligent in business, makes him also fervent in spirit; but the mere shape that life takes has no influence beyond itself. “Give me the man" said the good and great Dr. Arnold, “who can go at once from cricket to prayers.” To do a thing “heartily,” is often to do it " to the Lord.”
The visit of the Emperor Alexander to this country, after the Peace, led him to submit to the Emperor a plan for making a tunnel under the Neva, where the accumulation of ice, and the suddenness with which it breaks up on the termination of winter, rendered the erection of a bridge, a work of great difficulty. This was the origin of his plan for a tunnel under the Thames, which had been twice before attempted without
In 1824, however, a company was formed, and supported by the Duke of Wellington, who took from first to last a deep interest in the work. The work was commenced in 1824. It was stopped more than once during its progress by the breaking in of the river, and more effectually at last by the exhausted finances of the company, which never extended beyond the command of £180,000. At length, after the suspension of the work for many years, by a special Act of Parliament, a loan was sanctioned, the Exchequer Loan Commissioners advanced the funds necessary for the completion of the work under the river, and notwithstanding many weighty professional opinions were advanced against the practicability of the work, from both the loose alluvial nature of the soil through which it had to be constructed, and the superincumbent flood of water, it was finished and opened to the public in 1843. In a scientific