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“ The staid gravity of her countenance,” says one of the diurnal critics," the solemnity of her utterance, and the studied precision of her walk, convulsed the audience with laughter." She afterward, assisted by her young friends, who sustained the minor parts of the drama, supported the character of RiCHARD THE THIRD, from the tent scene to the death of the tyrant, and evinced a knowledge of the text, and an acquaintance with stage effect really surprising. She finally, in the character of a countryman, sang a comic song with a great deal of archness and humour.
After playing for some time at Drury Lane, Miss Clara Fisher was engaged at Covent Garden, and appeared in the pantomime of Harlequin Gulliver, performing the character of Richard III. in which she had been so successful at the rival house. Some parts of her performance in this character were such as deserve a more than cursory notice. The manner in which she read the letter in the tent scene, the sarcastic smile that accompanied her handing it to the messenger, as she repeated the lines,
“ Jocky of Norfolk be not too bold;
For Dickon, thy master, is bought and sold;" and then as she turned away, on saying,
" A weak invention of the enemy;" was such as deservedly to draw down the most loud and reiterated acclamations.
The infant heroine has since visited some of the principal theatres in the kingdom, and sustained, with unrivalled success, the characters of Richard III., Shylock, Douglas, Bombastes, &c.
In 1812, the attention of the philosophical world was attracted by the most singular phenomenon in the history of the human mind that perhaps ever existed. It was the case of a child, under eight years of age, who, without any previous knowledge of the common rules of arithmetic, or even of the use and power of the Arabic numerals, and without giving any particular attention to the subject, possessed, as if by intuition, the singular faculty of solving a great variety of arithmetical questions by the mere operations of the mind, and without the usual assistance of any visible symbol or contrivance.
The name of the child was Zerah Colburn, who was born at Cabut, Vermont, in the United States, on the 1st of September, 1804. In August, 1810, although at that time not six years of age, he first began to show those wonderful powers of calculation, which have since so much astonished every person who has witnessed them. The discovery was made by accident. His father, who had not given him any other instruction than such as was to be obtained at a small school established in that unfrequented and remote part of the country, (and which did not include either writing or arithmetic,) was much surprised one day to hear him repeating the products of several numbers. Struck with amazement at this circumstance, he proposed a variety of arithmetical questions to bim, all of which the child solved with remarkable facility and correctness. The news of this infant prodigy soon circulated throughout the neighbourhood, and persons came from distant parts to witness so singular a circumstance. The father, encouraged by the unanimous opinion of all who came to see him, was induced to undertake the tour of the United States with his child; and afterward to bring him to England, where he exhibited his astonishing powers before thousands in the metropolis. It was correctly true, as stated of him, that he would not only determine, with the greatest facility and despatch, the exact number of minutes or seconds in any given period of time, but would also solve any other question of a similar kind. He would tell the exact product arising from the multiplication of any number, consisting of two, three, or four figures, by any other number consisting of an equal number of figures; or any number consisting of six or seven places of figures being proposed, he would determine with equal expedition and ease all the factors of which it is composed. This singular faculty consequently extended not only to the raising of powers, but also to the extraction of square and cube roots of the number proposed; and likewise to the means of determining whether it be a prime number, (a number incapable of division by any other number,) for which case there does not exist at present any general rule amongst mathematicians.
On one occasion, this child undertook, and completely succeeded in raising the number 8 progressively up to the sixteenth power; and in naming the last result, viz. 281,474,976,710, 656, he was right in every figure. He was then tried as to other numbers, consisting of one figure; all of which he raised (by actual multiplication, and not by memory,) as high as the tenth power, with so much facility and despatch, that the person appointed to take down the results was obliged to enjoin him not to be so rapid. He was asked the square root of 106,929; and before the number could be written down, he immediately answered, 327. He was then required to name the cube root of 268,336,125; and with equal facility and promptitude he replied, 645. One of the party requested him ia .name the factors which produced the number 247,483,
which he immediately did, by mentioning 941, and 236, which are the only two numbers that will produce it. Another gentleman proposed 174,393, and he almost instantly named the only factors that would produce it. He was then asked to give the factors of 36,083 ; but he immediately replied that it had none; which in fact was the case, as it is a prime number. One of the gentlemen asked him how many minutes there were in forty-eight years; and before the question could be written down, he answered it correctly, and instantly added the number of seconds contained in the same period.
No information could be gained from the child of the method by which he effected such astonishing results, although it appeared evident that he operated by certain rules known only to himself.
The American boy, Zerah Colburn, whose astonishing talents at calculation we have already noticed, appears to have been since surpassed by George Bidder, the son of a labouring peasant in Devonshire. Bidder began to exhibit his astonishing powers at an early age; and when not more than twelve, the following question was proposed to him at the Stock Exchange, which he answered in the short space of one minute.
If the pendulum of a clock vibrate the distance of nine inches and three quarters in a second of time, how many inches will it vibrate in the course of seven years, fourteen days, two hours, one minute, and fifty-six seconds, each year of three hundred and sixty-five days, five hours, forty-eight minutes, and fifty-five seconds ? Answer: two thousand, one hundred and sixty-five millions, six hundred and twenty-five thousand, seven hundred and forty-four inches, and three-quarters. In miles, thirty-four thousand, one hundred and seventy-eight miles, four hundred and seventy-five yards, two feet, and threequarters of an inch.
CALCULATING GIRL. In the spring of 1819, a little girl, about eleven years old, appeared at the Royal Exchange, and made some very extraordinary calculations. Several gentlemen asked her some intricate question, and while they were calculating it, she gave a correct answer. She was asked to multiply 525,600 by 250; which she answered in one minute, 131,400,000.' A second question was, how many minutes there are in forty-two years ? Answer, 22,075,200. She was next desired to multiply 525,000 by 450; answer, 236,250,000. Several other questions, equally difficult, were put, all of which she answered
very correctly. It is remarkable, that the girl could neither read nor write. She stated herself to be the daughter of a weaver, living at Mile-End, New Town, of the name of Heywood.
THOMAS WILLIAMS MALKIN.
It is easy to conceive that the partialities of a parent, who may have the happiness to possess a child of precocious talent, may induce him to dwell on the “ trivial fond records," with too much minuteness; and if he becomes the biographer, to write with a fervour unrestricted by the limits of calm investigation. Whether such an observation may not be applied to Dr. Malkin, who, in “ A Father's Memoirs of his Child," has related facts so astonishing, we will not say, but certainly he has furnished abundance of evidence to prove the extraordinary talents of his son.
Thomas Williams Malkin was two years old before he began to talk; but he was familiar with the alphabet almost half a year sooner. Before he could articulate, when a letter was named, he immediately pointed to it with his finger. From the time when he was two years old, and the acquisition of speech seemed to put him in possession of all the instruments necessary to the attainment of knowledge, he immediately began to read, spell, and write with a rapidity which can scarcely be credited but by those who were witnesses of its reality. Before he was three years old, he had taught himself to make letters, first in imitation of printed books, and afterward of hand writing, and that without any instruction, for he was left to chalk out his own pursuits of this nature.
On his birth-day, when he attained the age of three years, he wrote a letter to his mother with a pencil, and a few months afterward, he addressed others to some of his relatives.
At the age of four, he had learned the Greek alphabet, and had advanced so far in Latin, as to write an exercise every day with a considerable degree of accuracy. Before he had reached his fifth year, he not only read English with perfect fluency, " but,” says his father, “understood it with critical precision." He had acquired a happy art in copying maps with neatness and accuracy, an amusement to which he was very partial; he had also made copies from some of Raphael's heads, so much in unison with the style and sentiment of the originals, as to induce connoisseurs to predict, that if he were to pursue the arts as a profession, he would one day rank among the most distinguished of their votaries.
When he was in his seventh year, he wrote fables, and made one or two respectable attempts at poetical composition; but the most singular instance of a fertile imagination, united with the
power of making all he met with in books or conversation his
own, yet remains behind. This was the idea of a visionary country called Allestone, which was so strongly impressed on his own mind, as to enable him to convey an intelligible and lively transcript of its description. Of this delightful territory, he considered himself as king. He had formed the plan of writing its history, and had executed detached parts of it. Neither did his ingenuity stop here; for he drew a map of the country, giving names of his own invention to the principal mountains, rivers, cities, seaports, villages, and trading towns. This map, in whatever light it is viewed, is a very remarkable production. Considerable part of the history he wrote in a number of letters and tales, in which he displays a most fertile imagination. This was one of the last efforts of his genius, for this youthful prodigy of learning died before he attained the seventeenth year of his age.
In march, 1779, Napoleon, the son of Carlo Buonaparte, a lawyer of Corsica, being then in his tenth year, was sent to the school of Brienne, in Champagne, which was superintended by some of the holy fathers, called Minims. Of a silent and stern disposition, prone to solitude and meditation, he seemed as if cast by nature for the rigid order of life imposed by the rules of the establishment. Each pupil was locked up by himself at night in a cell, the whole furniture of which consisted of a girth bed, an iron water pitcher and bason ; yet gloomy as this seclusion was, young Napoleon preferred retiring to it during the intervals of scholastic exercise, to joining with his schoolmates in their usual sports and amusements. At a later period, he was wont to prosecute his solitary studies in a little garden, wiiich he had contrived to enclose for his own exclusive use, by prevailing on some of the scholars to assign to him the shares allotted to them, and adding these to his own. It has been told of him at this period, that on one occasion, when the other school-boys were thrown into great consternation by the explosion of a fire-work which they were engaged in preparing, and when some of them, in their haste to get out of the way of the danger, broke through into the territory of the young solitaire, he seized his garden tools, and attacking the invaders, drove them with equal spirit and non-chalance back into the midst of the peril from which they were seeking to escape. In consequence of these cold and forbidding features in his character, he soon acquired the nick-name of the Spartan, which he retained during his residence at Brienne.