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And those most sacred mysteries unfold
None thereof worthy be but those whom she
any fleshly sense Or idle thought of earthly things remain,
But all that erst seemed sweet seems now offence,
And that fair lamp which useth to inflame
So full their eyes are of that glorious sight,
Ah then, my hungry soul! which long hast fed
And look at last up to that sovereign light
34.-CHARACTER OF JAMES WATT.
JEFFREY. [The following · Notice and Character,' from the pen of one of the most accomplished critics and writers of our time, the present Lord Jeffrey, appeared in the Scotsman' Edinburgh Newspaper, in 1819.]
Mr. James Watt, the great improver of the steam engine, died on the 25th of August, 1819, at his seat of Heathfield, near Birmingham, in the 84th year
of his This name fortunately needs no commemoration of ours; for he that bore it survived to see it crowned with undisputed and unenvied honours; and many generations will probably pass away, before it shall have gathered “all its fame.” We have said that Mr. Watt was the great Improver of the steam engine; but, in truth, as to all that is admirable in its structure, or vast in its utility, he should rather be described as its Inventor. It was by his inventions that its action was so regulated as to make it capable of being applied to the finest and most delicate manufactures, and its power so increased as to set weight and solidity at defiance. By his admirable contrivance, it has become a thing stupendous alike for its force and its flexibility- for the prodigious power which it can exert, and the ease, and precision, and ductility, with which that power can be varied, distributed, and applied. The trunk of an elephant, that can pick up a pin or rend an oak, is as nothing to it. It can engrave a seal, and crush masses of obdurate metal before it-draw out, without breaking, a thread as fine as gossamer, and lift a ship of war like a bauble in the air. It can embroider muslin and forge' anchors—cut steel into ribands, and impel loaded vessels against the fury of the winds and waves.
It would be difficult to estimate the value of the benefits which these inventions have conferred upon this country. There is no branch of industry that has not been indebted to them; and, in all the most material, they have not only widened most magnificently the field of its exertions, but multiplied a thousand-fold the amount of its productions. It was our improved steam-engine, in short, that fought the battles of Europe, and exalted and sustained, through the late tremendous contest, the political greatness of our land. It is the same great power which now enables us to pay the interest of our debt, and to maintain the arduous struggle in which we are still engaged [1819), with the skill and capital of countries less oppressed with taxation. But these are poor and narrow views of its importance. It has increased indefinitely the mass of human comforts and enjoyments; and rendered cheap and accessible, all over the world, the materials of wealth and prosperity. It has armed the feeble hand of man, in short, with a power to which no limits can be assigned; completed the dominion of mind over the most refractory qualities of matter; and laid a sure foundation for all those future miracles of mechanic power which are to aid and reward the labours of after generations. It is to the genius of one man, too, that all this is mainly owing! And certainly no man ever bestowed such a gift on his kind. The blessing is not only universal, but unbounded; and the fabled inventors of the plough and the loom, who were deified by the erring gratitude of their rude contemporaries, conferred less important benefits on mankind than the inventor of our present steam-engine.
This will be the fame of Watt with future generations: and it is sufficient for his race and his country. But to those to whom he more immediately belonged, who lived in his society and enjoyed his conversation, it is not, perhaps, the character in which he will be most frequently recalled-most deeply lamented-or even most highly admired. Independently of his great attainments in mechanics, Mr. Watt was an extraordinary, and in many respects a wonderful man. Perhaps no individual in his age possessed so much and such varied and exact information-had read so or remembered what he had read so accurately and well. He had infinite quickness of apprehension, a prodigious memory, and a certain rectifying and methodizing power of understanding, which extracted something precious out of all that was presented to it. His stores of miscellaneous knowledge were immense --and yet less astonishing than the command he had at all times over them. It seemed as if every subject that was casually started in conversation with him, had been that which he had been last occupied in studying and exhausting—such was the copiousness, the precision, and the admirable clearness of the information which he poured out upon it, without effort or hesitation. Nor was this promptitude and compass of knowledge confined in any degree to the studies connected with his ordinary pursuits. That he should have been minutely and extensively skilled in chemistry and the arts, and in most of the
branches of physical science, might perhaps have been conjectured. But it could not have been inferred from his usual occupations, and probably is not generally known, that he was curiously learned in many branches of antiquity, metaphysics, medicine, and etymology, and perfectly at home in all the details of architecture, music, and law. He was well acquainted, too, with most of the modern languages --and familiar with their most recent literature. Nor was it at all extraordinary to hear the great mechanician and engineer detailing and expounding, for hours together, the metaphysical theories of the German logicians, or criticizing the measures or the matter of the German poetry.
His astonishing memory was aided, no doubt, in a great measure, by a still higher and rarer faculty—by his power of digesting and arranging in its proper place all the information he received, and of casting aside and rejecting, as it were instinctively, whatever was worthless, or immaterial. Every conception that was suggested to his mind seemed instantly to take its proper place among its other rich furniture; and to be condensed into the smallest and most convenient form. He never appeared, therefore, to be at all encumbered or perplexed with the verbiage of the dull books he perused, or the idle talk to which he listened; but to have at once extracted, by a kind of intellectual alchemy, all that was worthy of attention, and to have reduced it, for his own use, to its true value and to its simplest form. And thus it often happened, that a great deal more was learned from his brief and vigorous account of the theories and arguments of tedious writers, than an ordinary student could ever have derived from the most painful study of the originals—and that errors and absurdities became manifest from the mere clearness and plainness of his statement of them, which might have deluded and perplexed most of his hearers without that invaluable assistance. It is needless to say, that, with these vast resources,
his conversation was at all times rich and instructive in no ordinary degree: but it was, if possible, still more pleasing than wise, and had all the charms of familiarity with all the substantial treasures of knowledge. No man could be more social in his spirit, less assuming or fastidious in his manners, or more kind and indulgent towards all who approached him. He rather liked to talk—at least in his latter years: but though he took a considerable share of the conversation, he rarely suggested the topics on which it was to turn, but readily and quietly took up