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santly along those new highways which, in their advancing progress, are to bring together the wants and the attainments of the united human family.


October, 1846. I trust I shall be believed, when I say I appreciate my situation. Whatever may be the incidents of distinction, or responsibility, with which I am elsewhere invested-honoured as I am by the choice of no mean Constituency on the other side of the hills which bound your prospects—permitted as I am to bear a part in the highest councils of the State-I can in all truth assure you, that I find something very new, fresh, and large in the honour of being called upon to preside at this annual jubilee of the Manchester Athenæum. The sense of honour, and let me add with as much truth, of difficulty also, is certainly not lessened, when I call those to mind who have preceded me in the same post, upon these brilliant occasions. The last echoes of this assembly, which I now feel it is a hardihood in me to rouse again, answered to the accents, deep, gentle, and earnest as his own spirit, of Mr. Serjeant Talfourd—why, there is something in the very name of an Athenæum which bespeaks it to be a fitting theatre for all the utterances of the bard of Ion and the Athenian captive. Next before him, I well know that your

souls must have thrilled under the spell of so potent a magician as Mr. D'israeli; even in the very hottest conflicts of party, from which we are here happily sheltered, I think it was impossible even for his most exposed victim to have been blind to the point, the brilliancy, the genius, which played about the wounds they made-but here, on this gorgeous stage, amidst this apt and congenial auditory, on the themes so familiar to him of literature, of art, of imagination, I, who could only read in cold print what he said, without all the kindling accessories of time and place, can yet easily believe how the admiration, which could not be withheld even on the barren ground of political controversy, must have here been heightened almost into enchantment. And it was at the first, I believe, of these assemblies, the first at least held upon this scale of size and splendour, that its chair was filled—better it can never again be filled-by Charles Dickensthat bright and genial nature, the master of our sunniest smiles and our most unselfish tears, whom, as it is impossible to read without the most ready and pliant sympathy, it is impossible to know (I at least have found it 'so) without a depth of respect, and a warmth of affection, which a singular union of rare qualities alike command. I have made it my business, too, to look at what they said when they were here; but this, while it certainly has ministered very highly to my gratification, has also only added to my embarrassment ; for it would indeed be an endeavour irksome to you, and hopeless for me, to revive in feebler expression, and fainter colouring, what was pourtrayed by them with so much richness and exuberance. I therefore feel that at this time of day, and above all in this place, it would be an impertinence in me to inculcate that learning in any community will not prove “a dangerous thing”—that commerce, which has formed, and which now ennobles a community like this, is the natural ally of literature and art—that the tastes which may be here encouraged, the habits which may be here fostered, are those which give a grace and glory to the lives and characters of men. Yes, I do rejoice with the most gifted and ardent of those who have preceded me, of those who now surround me, I do rejoice over the impulses and associations which are impressed upon the times we live in, and which institutions like this, and assemblies like these, serve to rivet and transmit; I rejoice that English commerce is rising up to the height of its position, and feeling the real dignity of its calling ; but this the Tuscan, this the Genoese, this the Venetian did; the worthies of our English commerce are content to be merchants, without being princes; if we have Medicis, they are not intent on seeking alliances with the thrones of Europe; their best aim will be now to raise to the same level of knowledge, of happiness, of virtue, the whole body of the people. I rejoice that here, in Manchester, beyond all dispute the first city in the ancient or modern world for manufacturing enterprise and mechanical skill, you have not been content with that display of wealth which jostles in your streets and is piled in your warehouses; you do not think it enough to raise factories tier upon tier, and magazines that will accommodate the traffic of the world, but you have thought it part of your proper business, too, to build and to set apart a baunt for innocent enjoyment, for useful instruction, for graceful accomplishment, for lofty thought, the shrine of Pallas Athene in a Christian land. May this long be the resort, together with those kindred and neighbouring institutions, which this does not aim to eclipse

the many

or overlay, but to encourage and excite, where all who are engaged in the business and the labours of this unparalleled hive of industry may find rest for their flagging spirits, a neutral ground for their manifold differences, invigorating food for their reason, and an impulse, onward and upward, to all the higher tendencies of our nature. I am glad to perceive that, as the benefits of the establishment are confined to no condition, no class, no denomination, so they are not exclusively appropriated even to one sex. Women have always played an important, perhaps not uniformly a beneficial part in this world's history. I believe as civilisation advances, they will play both a more recognised and a more elevated part than they have ever yet done ; and I trust that among currents upon which the restless activity of our age is eddying along, a prominent one will be devoted to making female education sound, substantial, and enlightened; all it ought to be for training those who themselves must in any case be the real trainers, as they may be the best trainers, of our citizens and our workmen. From all I can gather, the wholesome effects of your association have, by no means, been confined to its own walls or its own operations ; it not only walks its own round, but is suggestive of many kindred processes; or, if I may borrow an illustration from one of the disputed problems of the upper skies, in its career of light and progress, it throws off from itself separate bodies, which harden into distinct masses, and glow with independent lustre. Has it not been very much under the impulse of ideas struck out and caught up here, in your lecture rooms, in your social gatherings, in the more earnest friction of your discussions, by the agency mainly of your members, your officers, your founders, that the public parks, which have added so much, both of material and of real beauty to your great city, that the public baths and wash-houses, which have still deeper effects than on the mere linen and the skin, that the attention given to sanitary regulations of every description, have owed their rise ? Can you look to other sources for industrial schools, for the weekly half-holiday in warehouses, for the early closing of shops ?

You will perceive that I have not refrained from some of those obvious topics in connection with the institution, which the part assigned to me of opening the proceedings of the night necessarily almost imposed upon me. Let me turn for a little time from the institution to yourselves, — you who constitute it, orators by whose eloquence you have heretofore been so much delighted, addressing himself to the youth of Manchester before him, told them with emphasis to aspire. Far be it from me to tell them otherwise ; all who feel within them the sacred flame, who are strung for the high endeavour, who have girded themselves for the immortal race, I would address in the same terms, even the terms of the great moralist poet, Dr. Johnson:

are its essence and its life. I perceive that one of the

• Proceed, illustrious youth,
And virtue guard thee to the throne of Truth!
Let all thy soul indulge the generous heat,
Till captive Science yield her last retreat ;
Let Reason guide thee with her brightest ray,

And pour on misty Doubt resistless day!” It is, indeed, by such means, by patient inquiry, by diligent study, by humble-minded searching after truth, that all real knowledge is to be wooed by man, equally removed from the shallow presumption which sets up its own speculations and sophistries in the place of a conscientious reason and a disciplined faith, and from the blind bigotry which bawls down fair argument, decides against proof, and condemns without hearing. But I was saying that I did not wish, I could not wish, to damp or discountenance the purpose


your young men to aspire ; for well I know that genius is the property of no condition, the apanage of no class of men : it will often be seen to rise, like the Goddess of old, out of the ocean billow, from those surfaces of society where you would least expect to find it, break through all the surrounding uniformity, and shed sudden radiance round the new horizon. But, while I am ready to track its shining course, and bask in its genial warmth, in whatever orbit it may be moving, I would yet venture to remind you that there is something more admirable than genius, and that is virtue; there is something more valuable than success, and that

The hope of succeeding in the world, and of playing a shining part, may sometimes operate powerfully as an incentive, but it is too apt to engross both the efforts and the admiration of mankind. I was struck with the import of an expression I once heard from a friend, though you will at once perceive that it is not to be understood quite in its literal acceptation: the expression was, that Heaven was made for those who had failed in the world. Now, all sorts of unbecoming and unamiable feelings may undoubtedly accompany and embitter failure, just as every bright

is duty.

and blessed quality of the heart and mind may enhance and adorn success; but to aim at success, to meet with failure, and not to grudge it, to be outstripped by a rival and yet

“ To hear A rival's praises with unwounded ear," this is an effort and a triumph besides which all the ordinary suc

esses of life are mean and trivial. Success, after all, in nearly every walk of life, from the aspiring statesman to the ambitious parish beadle, unless very carefully watched, very anxiously chastened, is apt to be made up of very coarse, obtrusive, vulgar ingredients, certainly not of heavenly temperament; while there is hardly a grace of character, a spring of self-reliance, an element of

progress, with which failure, not caused by our own acts, and sustained with an even and brave spirit, may not ally itself. Depend upon it, in a great many instances, the world does not discover, does not recognise its best; there are diamonds in Golconda more precious than

any, the Pitt, or the Pigott, or the Kohinoor, which ever blazed in the diadem of sovereigns; there are pearls in unopened shells more lustrous than any that ever shone upon the neck of beauty; the ages as they pass have known their Homer, their Raphael, their Newton, their Shakspeare ; but there are prodigalities among the human creation as well as among all besides, that have never yet been fathomed ; yet there has never been any thing which, except by its own fault, has been lost or thrown away. Which is the material point,--to be Raphael or Shakspeare, or only to be thought a transcendant poet, or an unequalled painter; to have conceived in the inmost soul the lineaments of the Holy Mother and Divine Babe, the idea of Lear on the heath, or Macbeth at the banquet, or to have would-be amateurs commending the picture, and crowded audiences shouting bravo in the pit? Only impress upon your minds this great truth and bear it about with you both to your daily task and to your evening leisure, both to the privacy of your homes, and to your social musters, that it matters comparatively little what we may seem to be – it even matters proportionately little what we may do: what we matters every thing; what we may seem, is subject to a thousand accidents and misapprehensions; what we may do, is under the control of circumstances ; what we are, is entirely under our own. We may

be all we should be ; and no matter how humble the situation may be of any one among you, no matter how obscure the


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