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business which engrosses every precious hour, how insignificant the whole life's drudgery, still in that obscure and unenvied situation, amidst that wearing and numbing drudgery, you may mould for yourselves the qualities, you may build up for yourselves the character which princes, if they knew it, would trust, which multitudes, if they could discern it, would adore. I know that in venturing to speak upon these high topics of morality and conduct, with lips scarcely authorised, I run the risk of imperfect explanation, as well as of much misconstruction. I know it is thought that addresses delivered on such occasions are rather apt to minister too much to the pride of man to undue adulation of the intellect. I disclaim such tendencies ; when I say you may be all
should be, I do not mean to exclude from the method those aids and sanctions which are too high to be here dwelt upon, and no one feels more convinced that reason as well as Christianity makes humility almost its most prominent grace. Who would not be humble who felt, as he ought, the loveliness of virtue, and the magnificence of knowledge ? I should like to ask the men who have just added another planet to our system, or, as has been beautifully said, on an earlier occasion, “who lent the lyre of heaven another string,” whether their spirit does not recoil with modest awe, instead of swelling with self-sufficient pride, before the secrets of that space into which they have been permitted to throw a more far-seeing gaze than any of their fellows; and when the time shall come which to our enlarged and perfected vision shall unfold the whole bright mechanism of stars, and suns, and systems, shall we not find in the laws which fix their stations, or which guide their 'mazes, fresh reasons to be reverent, acquiescent, and lowly ? It is time, however, for me to come down from the clouds, and indeed from everything else; I could hardly, however, have lighted on a more radiant resting-place on this earth than the present assembly. I only hope that all those who have partaken in its excitements will not merely carry away the transitory emotions to which it may easily give birth, but a settled determination, followed up by a corresponding practice, to give fair play and full scope to all the best and highest purposes of which the Institution is capable; they must be attained by associated effort, but you will hardly fail to remark, at least it is generally the case in institutions of this character, how very much of the work is done by a very few out of the whole number. Now, what we want is more of individual energy in the whole body; each of you make the work
his own; and let no member of the Manchester Athenæum think that he has done his duty without having done something, according to his opportunities, to give encouragement, efficacy, and credit to an establishment he ought to be so proud to serve.
On my own part I have only further to say, that if, when the gay glitter of the scene has passed away,—when the strains of music are hushed, and silence has fallen on the voice of the speaker, - any one of you, in the stillness of the quiet home, or amid the clang of the daily occupation, shall have derived a single encouragement to ennobling reflections or to worthy pursuits, — still more if any, under the sting of disappointment, or a sense of the world's coldness and alienation, shall have been reminded how little it really signifies, and that failure is one of the appointed accesses to Heaven,
- if any word that has fallen from me shall have contributed to such encouragement or such alleviation, I shall then feel that I have not come to Manchester quite in vain.
September, 1847. My LORDS, LADIES, AND GENTLEMEN, I could not resist the gratification, when it was proposed to me, of attending the meeting of this evening, brought together for the purpose of promoting the interests of the Sheffield Athenæum and Mechanics’ Institution, and of encouraging its friends in the good work they have undertaken. I feel, indeed, that having now been called upon to attend some half-dozen meetings within this Riding, for the same purpose and with the same objects, that it would be quite useless for me to endeavour to bring any new illustration, or to offer any new suggestion, even upon a subject so important and interesting as that which engages our attention. *You do well, ladies and gentlemen, to promote the objects of such an Institution as that which has now been founded for thirteen years within your town; and to which, I trust, a fresh impulse and encouragement have been given this day by the ceremony of the morning, in laying a first stone for a new and extensive building under the happy auspices by which you are distinguished upon the present occasion. I hope that the building is destined largely to extend the advantages which have already been derived from the establishment of a Mechanics’ Institution within your town. I hope it is destined to associate with it several kindred objects, conyour
nected with the education generally of the youthful classes, and the promotion of a taste for the Fine Arts, which I can assure you will be found one of the most useful auxiliaries to the peculiar pursuits of this place, as well as highly conducive to the general improvement and elevation of all who can participate in those benefits. I am not, necessarily, intimately well acquainted with the peculiar processes and objects to which the attention of the Members of the Sheffield Mechanics’ Institution has of late been directed. I think it is always desirable that the pursuits and studies should not be confined to any one branch of acquirement, inasmuch as the same food does not suit all palates, nor the same food at all times suit the same palates. I certainly hope that your foremost attention, and most anxious patronage, will always be directed to those studies and objects which are most important for advancing the real, moral, political, and social improvement of your populationwhich tend to make the mind rational, sober, and manly, and which most fit them for battling in that great conflict of existence in which we must all bear a part, and enlisting under the banner of progress which is unfurled above us. But with those more serious, and solemn, and business-like pursuits, which ought to occupy your foremost attention, I think the promoters of this Institution have done well to mix some attention to the lighter walks of elegant accomplishments and polite literature, and to the cultivation of a taste for art, poetry, or music, which tend so much not only to relax, but to refine the human mind. While I recommend those who are inclined to such studies, to give their foremost attention to the severer walks of history and philosophy, I do not wish to exclude the graceful pages of poetry and fiction, and I will borrow an illustration from those pages, of the truth which I think worthy to be impressed upon your minds. Those of you who have had the opportunity of consulting the old legends of classical mythology, are aware that among the fancied deities with which they peopled the world, there was one who was more especially regarded as the God of labour, and of handicraft, Vulcan by name, who was always represented as being employed in huge smithies and workshops, hammering at heavy anvils, and blowing vast bellows, heating vast furnaces, and begrimed with soot and dirt. Well, for this hard working and swarthy-looking divinity, they wished to pick out a wife. And they did not select for him a mere drab—not a person, taken herself from the scullery or kitchen-dresser ; but they chose for him Venus, the Goddess of love and beauty. Now, ladies and gentlemen, pick out for me the moral of this tale, for I believe that nothing ever was invented, -certainly nothing by the polished and brilliant imagination of the Grecian intellect, which has not its own meaning, and its moral. I have no doubt that all the legends of our own country — that the one even of your own neighbourhood, the Dragon of Wantley itself has its appropriate allegory and meaning, if we only knew how to find them out. But what is the special meaning of the marriage of Vulcan with Venus -- of the hard-working artificer with the laughter-loving queen - of labour with beauty? What is it but this, that even in a busy hive of industry and toil like this, even here, upon a spot which is in many respects no inapt representative of the fabled workshop of Vulcan, even here, amid the clang of anvils, the noise of furnaces, and the sputtering of forges-even here, amid stunning sounds, and sooty blackness, the mind—the untrammelled mind — may go forth, may pierce the dim atmosphere which is poised all around us, may wing its way to the freer air and purer light which dwell beyond, and may ally itself with all that is most fair, genial, and lovely in creation. So, gentlemen, I say, your labour, your downright, hard, swarthy labour may make itself the companion, the helpmate, and the husband of beauty — of physical beauty, as I have reason to believe, from the inspection which I am able even now to command, and I have no doubt that a more intimate acquaintance with your wives, sisters, and daughters, would enable me to prove that I was not here wrong in my
illustration :— but besides this beauty, I say, your labour may ally itself with intellectual beauty - the beauty which is connected with the play of fancy, with the achievements of art, and with the creations of genius; beauty, such as painting fixes upon the glowing canvass, such as the sculptor embodies in the breathing marble, such as architecture developes in her stately and harmonious proportions, such as music dresses with the enchantment of sound. Now it is to the perception and cultivation of the beautiful in these departments that I look upon your Schools of Design, and your concerts, and many of the lectures which you hear from able and gifted men, as intended to be subservient; and I strongly advise the members of this Mechanics’ Institution to show a discriminating and generous support of these tasteful and humanizing pursuits. Above all, I advise you to cultivate a love of reading that which makes you almost independent of any other aids and appliances, and puts, with very moderate help, the whole domain of philosophy, history, and poetry, within your individual command. Why, gentlemen, a man is almost above the world, who possesses two books. I do not mean to put the two books which I am about to mention upon the same level, far from it, nor am I wishing to intimate to you that two books are sufficient for your study and perusal. I am only mentioning them as representatives of what is most excellent, though different in degree. But I say that a man is almost above the world who possesses his Bible and his Shakspeare — his Shakspeare for his leisure — his Bible for all time. I said some time ago, that labour, even the labour of this district, may unite itself with intellectual beauty. But there is a beauty of a still higher order with which I feel even more assured it is still more open to it to unite itself: I mean with moral beauty — the beauty connected with the affections, the conscience, the heart, and the life. It is indeed most true that in the very busiest and darkest of your workshops — in the most wearying and monotonous tasks of your daily drudgery, as also in the very humblest of your own homes — by the very smallest of your fireplaces one and each of you, in the zealous and cheerful discharge of the daily duty-in respect for the just rights and in consideration for the feelings of others in the spirit of meekness, and in the thousand charities and kindnesses of social and domestic intercourse,- one and each of you may attain to and exhibit that moral beauty of which I have spoken — that beauty which is beyond all others in degree, because, when it is attained to, it is the perfection of man's nature here below, and is the most faithful reflection of the will and image of his Creator. And thus, ladies and gentlemen, I close my explanation of the marriage of Vulcan with Venus--of Labour with Beauty, and with it I close the remarks which I have risen to offer you this evening. It has been a real pleasure to me to meet you here. I feel that this is neither the time nor the place fitting for me to enter upon any topics connected with local circumstances which are not properly connected with the business or occasion of our meeting. I have spoken of a just regard for the rights of others, and I feel quite disposed to believe that all who come within these walls are always willing to be actuated by a spirit of harmony and by a just regard to the rights and privileges of others. I have told you that labour—your labour—the labour of this district — may be most properly mated with beauty, but labour certainly loses its dignity and value if it is divorced from liberty. And it is by the aid of this and similar institutions -- it is