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Chap. XIV. SUCCESS OF RAILWAYS. 285
the traces, and set the horses free. He then went to the help of the passengers, who were all more or less hurt. The guard had his arm broken; and the driver was seriously cut and contused. A scream from one of his fellow-passenger "iusides " here attracted his attention: it proceeded from an elderly lady, whom he had before observed to be decorated with one of the enormous bonnets in fashion at the time. Opening the coach-door, he lifted the lady out; and her principal lamentation was that her large bonnet had been crushed beyond remedy I Mr. Stephenson then proceeded to the nearest village for help, and saw the passengers provided with proper assistance before he himself went forward on his journey.
It was some time before the more opulent classes, who could afford to post to town in aristocratic style, became reconciled to railway travelling. The old families did not relish the idea of being conveyed in a train of passengers of all ranks and conditions, in which the shopkeeper and the peasant were carried along at the same speed as the duke and the baron—the only difference being in price. It was another deplorable illustration of the levelling tendencies of the age.* It put an end to that gradation of rank in travelling, which was one of the few things left by which the nobleman could be distinguished from the Manchester manufacturer and bagman. But to younger sons of noble families the convenience and cheapness of the railway did not fail to recommend itself. One of these, whose eldest brother had just succeeded to an earldom, said one day to a railway 286 SUCCESS OF RAILWAYS. Chap. XIV.
* At a meeting of the Chesterfield Mechanics' Institute, at which Mr. Stephenson was present, one of the speakers said of him, " Known as he is wherever steam and iron have opened the swift lines of communication to our countrymen, and regarded by all as the Father of Railways, he might be called, in the most honourable acceptation of the term, the first and greatest leveller of the age." Mr. Stephenson joined heartily in the laugh which followed this description of himself. Sir Humphry Davy was once similarly characterised; but the remalk was somewhat differently appreciated. When travelling on the Continent, a distinguished person about a foreign court inquired who and what he was, never having heard of his scientific fame. Upon being told that his discoveries had "revolutionised chemistry" the courtier promptly replied, " I hate all revolutionists; his presence will not be acceptable here."
manager: "I like railways—they just suit young fellows like me with 'nothing per annum paid quarterly.' You know, we can't afford to post, and it used to be deuced annoying to me, as I was jogging along on the box-seat of the stage-coach, to see the little Earl go by drawn by his four posters, and just look up at me and give me a nod. But now, with railways, it's different. It's true, he may take a first-class ticket, while I can only afford a second-class one, but we both go the same pace."
For a time, however, many of the old families sent forward their servants and luggage by railway, and condemned themselves to jog along the old highway in the accustomed family chariot, dragged by country post-horses. But the superior comfort of the railway shortly recommended itself to even the oldest families; posting went out of date; post-horses were with difficulty to be had along even the great high-roads; and nobles and servants, manufacturers and peasants, alike shared in the comfort, the convenience, and the despatch of railway travelling. The lato Dr. Arnold, of Eugby, regarded the opening of the London and Birmingham line as another great step accomplished in the march of civilisation. "I rejoice to see it," he said, as he stood on one of the bridges over the railway, and watched the train flashing along under him, and away through the distant hedge-rows—" I rejoice to see it, and to think that feudality is gone for ever: it is so great a blessing to think that any one evil is really extinct."
It was long before the late Duke of Wellington would trust himself behind a locomotive. The fatal accident to Mr. Huskisson, which had happened before his eyes, contributed to prejudice him strongly against railways, and it was not until the year 1843 that he performed his first trip on the South-western Eailway, in attendance upon her Majesty. Prince Albert had for some time been accustomed to travel by railway alone; but in 1842, the Queen began to make use of the same mode of conveyance between Windsor and London. Even Colonel Sibthorpe was eventually compelled to acknowledge its utility. For a time he continued to post Chat. XIV. SUCCESS OF RAILWAYS. 287
to and from the country as before. Then he compromised the matter by taking a railway ticket for the long journey, and posting only for a stage or two nearest town; until at length he undisguisedly committed himself like other people to the express train, and performed the journey throughout upon what he had formerly denounced as "the infernal railroad."
288 VTAPTON HOUSE. Chap. XV.
Tapton House — Me. Stephenson's Partial Retirement From The Profession Of Engineer — Railway Mania.
During the construction of the Midland Bail way, Mr. Stephenson had frequently occasion to visit the neighbourhood of Chesterfield to inspect the progress of the Claycross tunnel, and the heavy stone cuttings in that neighbourhood. He then observed that the district was rich in coal, and it occurred to him that the opening of the railway would provide the means of a ready sale for the article. An opportunity shortly after presented itself of leasing the Claycross estate, and, other parties having joined him in the venture, a lease was taken with the object of working the coal which was known to exist on the estate. And in order that he might be able personally to superintend the sinking of the pits and the working of the coal, he about the same time took a lease of Tap ton House, which continued his residence during the remainder of his life.
Tapton House is a large, roomy, brick mansion, beautifully situated amidst woods, upon a commanding eminence, about a mile to the north-east of the town of ChesterfieM. Green fields dotted with fine trees slope away from the house in all directions. The surrounding country is exceedingly varied and undulating. North and south the eye ranges over a vast extent of lovely scenery; and on the west, looking over the town of Chesterfield, with its fine church and crooked spire, the extensive range of the Derbyshire hills bounds the distance. The Midland Eailway skirts the western edge of the park in a deep rock cutting, and the shrill whistle of the locomotive sounds near at hand as the trains speed past. The gardens and pleasure-grounds adjoining the house were in a very neglected state when Mr. Stephenson first went to
Tapton ; and he promised himself, when he had secured rest and leisure from business, that he would put a new face upon both. The first improvement he made was cutting a woodland footpath up the hill-side, by which he at the same time added a beautiful feature to the park, and secured
a shorter road to the Chesterfield station. But it was some years before he found time to carry into effect his contemplated improvements in the adjoining gardens and pleasure grounds. He had so long been accustomed to laborious pursuits, and felt himself still so full of work, that he could not at once settle down into the habit of quietly enjoying the fruits of his industry.
Tapton House was a central point on the Midland Railway from which he could proceed north, south, and west, on his superintendence of the Midland, the York and North Midland, the Birmingham and Derby, and the Manchester and Leeds railways, all of which were under construction about