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CHAP. xxxiv.] RETURNS TO TAPTON. 479
flash of light, it illuminated in an instant an entire field of science. During the same visit, Mr. Stephenson one evening repeated his experiment with blood drawn from the finger, submitting it to the microscope, in order to show the curious circulation of the globules. He set the example by pricking his own thumb; and the other guests, by turns, in like manner gave up a small portion of their blood for the purpose of ascertaining the comparative liveliness of their circulation. When Sir Robert Peel's turn came, Mr. Stephenson said he was curious to know “how the blood globules of a great politician would conduct themselves.” Sir Robert held forth his finger for the purpose of being pricked; but once, and again, he sensitively shrunk back, and at length the experiment, so far as he was concerned, was abandoned. Sir Robert Peel's sensitiveness to pain was extreme, and yet he was destined, a few years after, to die a death of the most distressing agony. From these visits to distinguished persons, Mr. Stephenson went back to Tapton with an increased love for home and its pleasures. He must see after his garden, his birds, and his favourite animals. There were also his thousand workpeople to be looked after, at Tapton and Clay Cross; and Mechanics' Institutes to be visited, and many other things to be attended to. One of the subjects that gave him most pleasure during the later years of his life was the encouragement of educational institutes for the working classes, in which he took the deepest interest. He had many discussions on the subject with his intimate friend Mr. Binns, the manager of the extensive works at Clay Cross. A large population had now settled down at that place, and the original hamlet, consisting of about twelve cottages, had assumed the dimensions of a town. Iron smelting furnaces had been added to the colliery, and decided prosperity at length promised to attend Mr. Stephenson's original enterprise. How were these workpeople to be morally and intellectually improved, and their children efficiently educated? Such was the question which occupied the attention of Mr. Stephenson and his friend. Small beginnings were made, educational institutes of all kinds growing but slowly; but at length a system was established, so admirable and calculated to be so beneficial to all parties concerned, employers and workpeople alike, that we think the institution at Clay Cross may be cited as a model for general imitation by large employers of labour in all districts. It is briefly as follows: — It is made a condition of employment at the works that every man and boy shall pay a fortnightly rate for educational and other purposes. Every married man pays a shilling a fortnight, every single man eight pence, every boy five pence. Of these respective contributions, two pence a fortnight from each is appropriated exclusively for education. It is further made a condition, that the fund shall be administered by the manager of the works; the concentration of the power in his hands ensuring efficiency to the system. In return for these contributions, the following important benefits are conferred: — 1. Free education in day schools for all the children of the workpeople. 2. Free education in night schools for all the boys and young men desiring instruction. 3. Free access to a Workmen's Institute, with its lectures, reading room supplied with daily and weekly newspapers, and library of 1600 volumes. 4. Free medical and surgical attendance to all the workpeople and their families. 5. Relief at the rate of 4s. a week during sickness, and 5s. a week during disablement by accident, to all the workpeople. 6. Free access to a fortnightly dance in the large hall, attended by the workpeople and their families. 7. A band of instrumental music, a drum and fife band, a choral society, and a cricket club, are maintained out of the rate. 8. Be
ch. xxxiv.] EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE AT CLAY CROSS. 481
tween thirty and forty pounds are yearly granted out of the rate as prizes for the best cottage garden vegetables; the competition for which is held three times a year in the Public Hall.
Such is the admirable institution now existing at Clay Cross. The number of persons employed on the works is about fifteen hundred; and the amount of good daily effected by agencies of the character thus briefly stated can be better imagined than described. Schools, with a fine public hall, and a handsome church, have been erected, at a cost of many thousand pounds, towards the expenses of which the Clay Cross Company have munificently contributed; but the main element of success in the Institution unquestionably consists in the truly philanthropic action of the manager, Mr. Binns, who was for so many years the private secretary of George Stephenson, and in whom his spirit strongly lives and nobly works.
“The good men do, lives after them,” happily holds true quite as often as the converse maxim embodied in Shakespere's well-known couplet.” The example and influence exercised by a good man upon his fellows, as by George Stephenson at Clay Cross during his life, is never lost; but goes on fructifying into good, long after his body has mouldered into dust.
* “The evil that men do, lives after them ; The good is oft interred with their bones.” Julius Caesar.
WHILE thus occupied in his country house at Tapton, many persons continued to seek Mr. Stephenson's advice on subjects connected with mechanical engineering. Inventors sent their plans to him, and his approval was regarded as a passport to success. He was always ready to consider the plans thus submitted. Sometimes it was a paddle-boat for canals, or a new brake for railway trains, or a steam-gauge, or a patent axle. If his reply proved favourable, the inventor occasionally seized the opportunity of circulating or advertising it, often without asking his permission. One gentleman requested his opinion respecting his “antifriction wheeled carriages,” to which a very civil letter was sent in reply, containing some useful hints, and offering to subscribe towards having a carriage properly constructed after a carefully prepared model, but cautioning the inventor against being over-sanguine. “If I can be the means of helping you,” said he, “I shall be glad to do so; but I should not be justified in leading you or any other person to spend money without any chance of getting it back again.” This letter was immediately published in the railway papers by the happy inventor, with a quantity of doggrel appended; but if the proposed wheel ran no smoother than the rhymes, it could not have been worth much."
* Take the following specimen:— “I saw your son Robert, oh fiel oh fiel He looked upon me with disdain;
cHAP. xxxv.] BEALE’s ROTATORY ENGINE. 483
Another inventor induced a mutual friend to write requesting his opinion respecting an improved steam-boat for the working of canals. He wrote in reply, commending the plan of the boat, but at the same time expressing his belief that “no boat can be made now to work against the locomotive.” When Beale's Rotatory Engine came out, although entertaining a strong opinion against it, he nevertheless subscribed a sum of money for the purpose of having it fairly tried. A boat was fitted up with the engine, and the trial came off at Yarmouth. After describing the experiment at a meeting of the Mechanical Engineers, he said, “When the engine was put to work, we could not get the boat to move forward, and the experiment failed. We managed, indeed, to get the boat to sea, but it cost me and the party 40l. to bring her back again.”
While Mr. Stephenson was in the full tide of railway business in London, these frequent applications of inventors to submit their plans for his consideration had not always been so favourably received. They broke in upon him at a time when every moment was precious, pre-engaged by railway companies with large interests at stake. Absorbed by work, and his mind full of the business in hand, it was scarcely to be expected that he should listen with patience to plans fifty times before proposed and rejected,—to crude and wild theories believed in only by their projectors. But when he
His father could see, with half an eye,
“He would n't allow me to leave him my models, Or a drawing, nor yet read my rhyme; For many came to him with crack'd noddles, Which occupied half of his time.” The last two lines state a fact beyond dispute. The number of inventions in connection with railways thrust upon the Messrs. Stephenson for their opinion during the railway mania, was almost beyond computation.