Изображения страниц

his best monument will always be his works. The Liverpool Board placed a minute on their books, embodying also the graceful tribute of their secretary, Mr. Henry Booth, in which they recorded their admiration of the life, and their esteem for the character of the deceased. “The directors,” they say, “on the present occasion look back with peculiar interest to their first connection with Mr. Stephenson, in the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway; to a period now twenty years past, when he floated their new line over Chat Moss, and cut his way through the rock-cutting at Olive Mount. Tracing the progress of railways from the first beginning to the present time, they find Mr. Stephenson foremost in urging forward the great railway movement; earning and maintaining his title to be considered, before any other man, the author of that universal system of locomotion which has effected such mighty results — commercial, social, and political—throughout the civilised world. Two years ago, the directors entrusted to Mr. Gibson, of Rome, the duty and the privilege of producing a statue that might do honour to their friend, then living amongst them. They did not anticipate that on the completion of this work of art the great original would be no more, that they should be constrained to accept the marble effigy of the engineer in lieu of the living presence of the man.”* The statue here referred to was placed in St. George's Hall, Liverpool. A full-length statue of the deceased, by Bailey, was also erected a few years later, in the noble vestibule of the London and North Western Station, in Euston Square A subscription for the purpose was set on foot by the Society of Mechanical Engineers, of which he had been the founder and president. A

* Minutes of the Liverpool Board of the London and North Western Railway Company, 6th Sept., 1848,

chap. xxxv.] HIS PORTRAIT. 495

few advertisements were inserted in the newspapers, inviting subscriptions; and it is a notable fact that the voluntary offerings shortly received included an average of two shillings each from 3150 working men, who embraced this opportunity of doing honour to their distinguished fellow workman. The portrait prefixed to this volume gives a good indication of George Stephenson's shrewd, kind, honest, manly, face. His fair, clear countenance was ruddy, and seemingly glowed with health. The forehead was large and high, projecting over the eyes; and there was that massive breadth across the lower part, which is usually observed in men of eminent constructive skill. The mouth was firmly marked; and shrewdness and humour lurked there as well as in the keen grey eye. His frame was compact, well-knit, and rather spare. His hair became grey at an early age, and towards the close of his life it was of a pure silky whiteness. He dressed neatly in black, wearing a white neckcloth; and his face, his person, and his deportment at once arrested attention, and marked the Gentleman.


THE life of George Stephenson, though imperfectly portrayed in the preceding pages, will be found to contain many valuable lessons. His was the life of a true man, and presented a striking combination of those sterling qualities which we are proud to regard as essentially English. Doubtless he owed much to his birth, belonging as he did to the hardy and persevering race of the north, a race less supple, soft, and polished than the people of the more southern districts of England, but, like their Danish progenitors, full of courage, vigour, ingenuity, and persevering industry. Their strong, guttural speech, which sounds so harsh and unmusical in southern ears, is indeed but a type of their nature. When Mr. Stephenson was struggling to give utterance to his views upon the locomotive before the Committee of the House of Commons, those who did not know him supposed he was “a foreigner.” Before long the world saw in him an Englishman, stout-hearted and true, one of those master minds who, by energetic action in new fields of industry, impress their character from time to time upon the age and nation to which they belong. The poverty of his parents being such that they could not give him any, even the very simplest, education, beyond the good example of integrity and industry, he was early left to shift for himself, and compelled to be self-reliant. Having the will to learn, he soon forced for himself a way. No beginning could have been more humble than his ; but he


persevered: he had determined to learn, and he did learn. To such a resolution as his, nothing really beneficial in life is denied. He might have said, like Sebastian Bach, “I was industrious; and whoever is equally sedulous will be equally successful.” The whole secret of Mr. Stephenson's success in life was his careful improvement of time, which is the rock out of which fortunes are carved and great characters formed. He believed in genius to the extent that Buffon did when he said that “patience is genius;” or as some other thinker put it, when he defined genius to be the power of making efforts. But he never would have it that he was a genius, or that he had done any thing which other men, equally laborious and persevering as himself, could not have accomplished. He repeatedly said to the young men about him: “Do as I have done—persevere !” Every step of advance which he made was conquered by patient labour. When an engineman, he systematically took his engine to pieces on Saturday afternoons, while the works were at a stand, for the purpose of cleaning it thoroughly, and “gaining insight.” He thus gradually mastered the mechanism of the steam-engine, so that, when opportunity offered, he was enabled to improve it, and to make it work even when its own maker was baffled. He practically studied hydraulics in the same plodding way, when acting as plugman; and when all the local pump doctors at Killingworth were in despair, he stepped in, and successfully applied the knowledge which he had so laboriously gained. A man of such a temper and purpose could not but succeed in life. His long labour to invent the perpetual motion was not lost. The attempt did him good, stimulating his inventiveness and mechanical ingenuity. He afterwards used to lament this loss of time, and said that if he had enjoyed the opportunity which young men of this day have, of knowing K. K.

from books what others had done before them, he would have been spared much labour and mortification. Sometimes he thought he had hit upon discoveries, which he afterwards found were but old fallacies long since exploded. Yet the very effort to overcome difficulty was of itself an education. By wrestling with it, he strengthened his judgment and sharpened his skill. Being in earnest in his struggle, he was compelled to consider the subject in all its relations; and this would not suffer him to be superficial. He thus acquired practical ability through his steadfast efforts even after the impracticable; and, like other inventors, he gained his knowledge of what will do, by successive trials of what will not do. Whether working as a brakesman or an engineer, his mind was always full of the work in hand. He gave himself thoroughly up to it. Like the painter, he might say that he had become great “by neglecting nothing.” Whatever he was engaged upon, he was as careful of the details as if each were itself the whole. He did all thoroughly and honestly. There was no “scamping ”with him. When a workman he put his brains and labour into his work; and when a master he put his conscience and character into it. He would have no slop-work executed merely for the sake of profit. The materials must be as genuine as the workmanship was skilful. The structures which he designed and executed were distinguished for their thoroughness and solidity; his locomotives were famous for their durability and excellent working qualities. The engines which he sent to the United States in 1832 are still in good condition *; and even the engines built by him for the Killingworth colliery,

* In 1852, Major-General Mac Neil (U.S.) said: “Their best engines were imported from England. Those supplied in 1832, by Stephenson and Co.,

were still in excellent working order.”—Discussion at the Institution of Ciril Engineers, April 27th, 1852.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »