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Without it a man sinks rapidly in the social scale; if poor, he becomes a hewer of wood and drawer of water; if rich and harmless, he is merely an incumbrance; if otherwise, he is a positive nuisance to society. He stands in the way, and is sure sooner or later to be hustled out of his place. Indeed the establishment of institutions such as this all over the country, originally intended for the improvement of the middle and working classes, is a sort of national acknowledgment of this want, although it may be that in some instances they have been diverted from their legitimate objects. I am rejoiced to see that latterly there has been a more general recognition of their proper uses. No one is more willing than I am freely to admit that relaxation is a necessary sequel to work. Man is not constituted like the steam-engine; he must have intervals, not only of rest but of relaxation. Mind and body are equally used up and worn out by continuous labour and unceasing application. The human frame was not constructed to stand such wear and tear. We are told on the highest and holiest authority, at the very dawn of civilization, when man's energies and bodily strength did not undergo a tithe of the strain they are subjected to at present,
* It is an aphorism nearly as old as man himself, that the requirements of youth should, as much as possible, correspond with the requirements of life. The revolution which has taken place in the active business of life may
be described in one sentence. Trade and commerce have become professions; nay, more, they have become professions requiring a range of information as wide, a tact in application as ready, and a discretion in choice as acute, as any of the professions which have been hitherto exclusively called “ The Learned.” In every branch of industry, the head that plans becomes daily of more importance than the hand that executes ; mental power is far more in demand than physical force or manual dexterity: the tradesman's interests extend far beyond his shop ; the
processes of art must be referred to the principles of science, and not received from vague traditions or casual experiments. Scientific knowledge has ceased to be a luxury, it has become a necessary of life: every man who enters into business finds large demands for it at his very first step; and it is therefore obviously indispensable that he should possess the supply necessary to meet such a requisition. I should be very much puzzled if I were asked to point out a dozen schools in the country, where youth could obtain instruction in those branches of knowledge which are the best calculated to train them for a life of commerce and active business. In plain terms, the manufacturing youth of the higher and middle classes are not trained for the order to which they must eventually belong."— Notes of a Tour in the Munufacturing Districts of Lancashire.
that one day in seven was not too much to give up to rest from labour, both of mind and body. And I cannot but consider that the substitution of mere mechanical insensible agents, such as gunpowder and steam, to do the work that had previously been got out of human bone and human muscle, is one of the very highest grounds on which science can confidently claim the suffrages of mankind. Only just consider the amount of work performed by the thousands of steam-engines and locomotives in this country. What an aggregate of animal toil, pain and suffering do they represent! The well-known story in the Eastern tale is realized, for the steam-engine is the true slave of the lamp. Even the very latest gift of science to the arts commends itself to humanity, by substituting the mechanical and insensate action of the viewless air for the laborious, unhealthy, and unbearable process of puddling iron, as it is called; in which half-naked men, with long iron bars in their hands, stand before the glowing mouths of roaring furnaces, and mix and blend the molten metal raised to a white heat. It is the same in every other department of human industry, in every section of man's knowledge. The habitudes of space, and the properties of matter in all its multitudinous forms of gaseous, liquid and solid, have been as it were, shut up in them, like the oak in the acorn, that man's understanding year after year, and age after age, might find its work in drawing out, sometimes one by one, again by handfuls, those secrets which all of them tend more or less to ameliorate the condition of mankind, in the opinion of Lord Bacon, the true scope and legitimate aim of science.
Now such being confessedly the advantages of science, and I may add of knowledge in general, the question naturally shapes itself in your minds somewhat in this form :-How is an acquaintance with science to be obtained by men who have but a small amount of leisure, a scant supply of books, no apparatus worthy of the name, and the opportunities of attending lectures few and rare. We have no teachers, no lectures, no apparatus, you will say. I am taking the most unfavourable case that can be supposed. We have but little time to spare, and but little money to spend. We must only sit still and continue as we are until those things are all provided for our use, either by private spirit or by public liberality. But I much fear if you are to wait until all those things are accomplished,
until you have a building free from debt, and taking its proper place among the institutions of your county--if you are to wait until you have warm, well-ventilated rooms, and a complete set of perfect apparatus for the elucidation of every science you propose to learn—if you are to wait for a staff of experienced teachers to be provided to instruct you in all those branches of knowledge you may desire to know, the prospect of your mental improvement would be a very remote one indeed.
You will ask, then, what is to be done? Now in answer to this I wish to place before you a great truth, which somehow seems to have been overlooked in our educational discussions. It is this, that learning must come from within, not from without—that listening to a lecture is not learningthat looking at a man making experiments does not teach you to manipulate in science. Only think of a man learning to swim, or to make shoes, or to sing, or to play on a musical instrument, by attending lectures on swimming, or shoemaking or music. Believe me, as there is no royal road to the palace of literature, there is no railroad to the temple of science. “ Coaching" may take a man part of the way, but it invariably leaves him worse prepared to encounter the difficulties of the rest of the ascent. He who wishes to mount must gird up the loins of his mind.” Lecturers and teachers are all very well to keep idle boys to their work and to stimulate the indolent. They are also useful, like finger-posts, to point out the road you should follow, but they will take you very little of it. A man can no more learn by the sweat of another man's brains than he can take exercise by getting another man to walk for him. All mental improvement resolves itself ultimately into self-improvement. The food of the mind is like the food of the body-it must be assimilated before it can benefit the system. The attempt to convey instruction through the vehicle of amusement is so very congenial to the feelings of most of us, it combines so agreeably our desire for information with our love of ease, it so flatters our vanity to be able to talk about dry abstruse things without beating one's brains about them, -to be placed, as it were, on the summit without toiling up the ascent,—that such modes of procedure obtain a very high degree of popularity. I do not mean to deny that
teachers are of use to those who are beginners in the elements of any branch of knowledge, just as corks are to those who are learning to swim, or as an infant requires to be held up by its nurse when first attempting to walk. Let this be a great encouragement to him who desires to learn, who with a moderate share of ability has, above all things, that strength of purpose and energy of will which will carry him through. If there be such among you, let him be assured that the differences between the facilities which the rich and poor respectively have for acquiring knowledge are not so great as is commonly imagined; especially in this country, where a man can procure for a few shillings the very best manuals and text-books in almost any branch of literature or science. He need not even go to that expense. He may join an Institution, such as this, and have the use of all the books he may require for a few pence; and I may here, by the way, remark that one of the greatest improvements in the means of educating the people, is the revolution which has taken place in the book trade during the last few years. A working man may now buy for a few shillings, or even for a few pence, under the guise of cheap paper and inexpensive printing, standard works that, a few years ago, would have been entirely beyond his means. You may buy a Cassell's Euclid for a shilling, an arithmetic for the same, a treatise on chemistry for a couple of shillings. These are your best teachers. They will not get impatient at your slowness, or angry with you because of your stupidity. Your books will not tire in giving you information; they will repeat it for you again and again. If you have misunderstood anything they have said, or are slow to comprehend them, they will wait patiently for you until you are ready to proceed with them. They will put up with your ill-humour, they will bear with your mistakes, and it will cost you but little to keep them. It is my undoubting conviction, that there is no one here present this evening, whom God has gifted with a moderate average share of ability-great talents are not required—and who has strength of will to carry him over the obstacles he is sure to meet with at the outset, that cannot master any science or language for the comprehension of which he has been furnished with the necessary natural ability. I do not say that it is within the compass of every man's understanding to become a profound mathematician. Men's minds are not constituted all alike; their understandings are as various as their faces. But such an one may become an accomplished linguist, or an expert chemist, or a keen observer of the manifold operations of nature. The Almighty has supplied us with subjects of thought as diverse as the phases of the understanding.
But, you will say, though books are cheap, and may easily be procured, we have no apparatus; and apparatus are scarce and dear, beyond the means of the poor man to obtain. Now, here is another error. There is a great deal too much talk about apparatus for teaching science, and the necessity there is that the State should manufacture it, and supply it at a cheap rate to schools and to Institutions like this. A man who is eager to learn—who is determined to know his subject -may, if he be at all handy, or with the assistance of the village carpenter or blacksmith, extemporise his apparatus. Polished mahogany, and expensive brass-work and complicated adjustments, are not at all essential. It is told of the celebrated philosopher, Dr. Wollaston, the inventor of the method of rendering platinum malleable, that when a continental chemist of some celebrity called on him, and expressed a wish to be shown over the laboratories in which science had been enriched by so many important discoveries, the Doctor took him into a little study, and, pointing to an old tea-tray on the table, with a few watch-glasses, test papers, a small balance, and a blow-pipe on it, said, “ There is all the laboratory that I have.” Believe me, whatever science you take up to learn, costly apparatus are not necessary—they are only the charlatanism of science. Now, do not mistake me; I am speaking about learning the elements of science, not of making discoveries in certain branches of it. To make astronomical discoveries, à telescope like that of Lord Rosse would be required. To carry on original investigations in botany and other departments of natural history, very complicated, highly finished, and very costly microscopes are a necessity, while a microscope * amply sufficient for educational purposes may be bought for ten shillings.
Again, the poor hardworking young man may say, “ How
* The microscope which received the Society of Arts' prize, manufactured by Field and Co. Birmingham.