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Life of Robert Stephenson by William Pole: Chapter IX (Volume 2)

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CHAPTER IX. (Volume 2). Concluding Years at Home and Abroad.

ROBERT STEPHENSON’S clubs were the ‘ Athenaeum' and the ‘ Carlton; ’ but the clubs in which he found society most adapted to his tastes were the periodical dinners of learned societies, or of coteries composed of certain members of learned societies.

He was a member of the Geographical Society, and he was a frequent attendant at the dinners of that learned body.

But the ‘ dinner-club ’ in which he most delighted was the Royal Society Club. Of the ‘ Philosophical Club ’ of the Royal Society he could not be a member, having neither contributed a paper to the transactions of any society, nor published a distinct treatise. To the last, the productions of his pen (with the exception of his article on ‘ Iron Bridges ’) were official reports, or brief statements of fact, connected with professional operations. But the Royal Society Club, having no such exclusive condition attached to the honour of membership, on Thursday, April 26, 1855, the inventor of the Tubular Bridge was proposed for election by Professor Wheatstone, and seconded by Sir Roderick Murchison. At this period the club dined at the Freemasons’ Tavern.

On March 6, 1856, Robert Stephenson made his first appearance as a member, Colonel Sabine being in the chair; Sir John Rennie, Dr. Peter Roget, Professor Wheatstone, Mr. George Rennie, and Sir Benjamin Brodie being present.

At these dinners Robert Stephenson was one of the principal attractions and causes of enjoyment. He thoroughly enjoyed them, always stopping late for ‘just another cigar and a little more talk’—and retiring at midnight to a friend’s house, or another convenient club, for ‘ a little more talk and just another cigar.’

From 1856 to 1858, Mr. Stephenson occupied the Presidential Chair of the Institution of Civil Engineers. His inaugural address, on entering office, is printed in the Appendix.

On June 25, 1857, Robert Stephenson received the Honorary D.C.L. degree of Oxford, together with Sir Colin Campbell, G.C.B. (Lord Clyde), Earl Powis, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, Bart., Sir John M'Neill, K. C.B., Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and Dr. Livingstone (the explorer).

But, with all his social success, Robert Stephenson’s life had in these latter years much of sorrow. He had reached the period of life when men who have no children confess to themselves that the glory of their days is only a shadow. To those who enjoyed his inmost confidence, he more than once revealed his sadness, and he was counselled to rouse himself against despondency.

His health was irreparably broken; but to the last he was so full of animation when in society that men found it difficult to imagine him other than he appeared. His hair had indeed turned white without long warning, but it was remembered that George Stephenson had a snowy head while he was still in the prime of manhood. There were those also who could tell how the amiable and gentle-tempered man began to manifest a passing peevishness and irritability on trivial provocations. Those who knew him thoroughly saw in these and other symptoms the conclusive proofs of serious mischief affecting health. But few suspected how he struggled against melancholy, and how he looked forward to death. The quiet of his house, when it was without guests, he could not endure. Often he walked about the lonely rooms, and sat down to yield to sorrow which in the presence of others he courageously suppressed.

In these last days he used to look regretfully on the scenes of his early professional triumphs, and of his wedded joy in the little house in Greenfield Place, Newcastle. ‘The Robert Stephenson of Greenfield Place is the Robert Stephenson I am most proud to think of I ’ he once said to a lady. He was at all times very fond of the mechanical department of engineering, and to the last no part of his cares afforded him more pleasure than the direction of the Newcastle factory. His admiration of ‘ really good, honest mechanical labour ’ was enthusiastic. If he railed paradoxically at new-fangled notions for educating workmen, he did so from a lively sense of the comparative worthlessness of superficial education. For the ‘skill of artisans’ he had a strong poetic sympathy, and as his career drew to a close, his affectionate appreciation of the class from which his father had sprung manifested itself in many pleasant ways.

When he, in company with the members of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, visited Sunderland in 1858, and received an address from the workmen then engaged in preserving that noble relic of Thomas Paine’s genius for mechanics—the bridge over the Wear— he said in reply—

There are no members of society for whom I have a higher respect than for industrious and intelligent workmen. It is to them that the engineer is indebted for the full and efficient realisation of his conceptions—which, however good they may be, must largely depend upon the skill of the workman for their success. The progress made in the higher branches of engineering during the last thirty years, may be attributed, in a great degree, to the improved skill and intelligence of the workmen. The advance of mechanical science, and its application to useful purposes, must always go hand in hand with the skill and also with the comfort of the working classes. I cannot refer to a better example in proof of this than the bridge upon which we are now standing. The alterations and improvements which you are so admirably carrying on, could not have been executed at the time when the original bridge was designed. If the engineer, therefore, had even designed the bridge as it is now intended to be made, his mental labour would have been vain and useless, for there was not sufficient skilled labour in the country to realise such an idea. I merely take this bridge as an appropriate example on the present occasion, because it is a work you are now carrying on under my own direction; but it is only necessary to look around, and we meet everywhere with engineering works to which the remarks I have just made apply in the strictest manner; and reflection on such subjects teaches us to feel that skilled labour is the great fulcrum upon which all our social progress depends, and that the success of this progress is just in proportion to the skill of the labour brought to bear upon the great works so thickly scattered throughout the country.

The bridge over the Wear, of which Robert Stephenson spoke in these terms, consists of a single circular arch of 236 feet span, with a rise of 34 feet. As the springings commence at 95 feet above the bed of the river, the whole height of the structure above low water being about 100 feet, vessels of from 200 to 300 tons burthen can pass under it, without striking their masts. It was built by Thomas Wilson, at the instigation of Rowland Burdon, the Member of Parliament for the county; and the engineer, in accomplishing his task, carried out successfully Tom Payne’s ideas with regard to open voussoirs. ‘ The stability of the bridge,’ observes Robert Stephenson, in his article on ‘ Iron Bridges,’ ‘ has been at all times, however, extremely precarious, and ordinary prudence cannot much longer delay its entire removal.’ As another part of this work mentions in detail the operations of extraordinary prudence by which that wonderful arch has been made durable, it is unnecessary here to dwell upon them. It is enough to say that the labour of restoration, not entirely completed till Robert Stephenson was placed in the grave, was his last work— a work carried out by [G. H. Phipps| Mr. G. H. Phipps]], the same engineer who had assisted him in his early labours on the locomotive.

Both by deed and word Robert Stephenson showed his care for workmen— especially for the workmen of Newcastle. The Newcastle Philosophical and Literary Institute was embarrassed with a debt of £6,200, when, mindful of the benefits he had derived in youth from its library and lectures, he volunteered to pay off" half its debts, provided that the rest of the incumbrance was wiped off by a public subscription, and that the subscription for members was lowered from two guineas to one guinea per annum. This latter condition was insisted on, for the sake of the many workmen who, in Newcastle and the immediate neighbourhood, are bent on the work of self-education. Prom time immemorial, the working classes of the Northumbrian coal-field have abounded with George Stephensons—of less commanding genius and less kind fortune.

In like manner, when it was proposed, in honour of George Stephenson, to erect the Willington Memorial Schools on the site of the house in which he dwelt, whilst acting as brakesman to the ballast-engine, Robert Stephenson came forward with open purse. The Memorial Schools, the Gothic architecture of which relieves the eye of steam-boat passengers, grown weary of the wharves and factories of the Tyne, were mainly raised by the younger Stephenson’s wealth. Of the £2,.500 expended upon them, £1,200 was his donation, £600 came from his executors, the rest of the sum being made up by the Government Educational Grant and a few private subscriptions.

A visit to Newcastle, to look over the factory, was to Robert in his later years an excursion of pleasure rather than of business. Tyneside men were genuinely proud of him. As soon as it was rumoured that he had arrived at his hotel, friends hastened from all quarters to ‘ the Chief; ’ and others, who could scarcely claim the honour of his friendship, came on divers pretexts, or with no excuse at all, to pay their respects to ‘Mr. Stephenson.’ The morning after his arrival, when he walked down to ‘ the works,’ there was an unusual stir in the thoroughfares, and the number of times the visitor-townsman had to nod, or raise his hat, or shake hands, was a strong testimony to the regard which all classes entertained for him.

As he approached the factory, the old dog, that had for years spent eleven hours out of every twelve in slumber, roused himself and walked sedately up the lane, to lick his boots, and receive a biscuit from his hand. A buzz amongst the workmen testified how thoroughly the general was beloved by the privates in his army. Amongst them there were many of his near relations—first and second cousins of the whole or half blood, and some few who, on similarity of name, laid claim to a kinship that did not in reality exist. Robert’s conduct towards his almost countless poor relations, on his mother’s side, deserves a word of notice. He could not have raised them above the lowly condition of their birth, had he desired to do so ; and even if the will and the power to exalt them had been his, he would have done no good by removing them from a way of life in which they were useful and honest members of society. But he never looked coldly on any of his kindred. He was well pleased to know that they were good workmen; and he was careful that his influence should tell in their favour, without rousing hopes that could only in the long run beget disappointment and discontent. There was consequently an understanding, based on a healthy clannish sentiment, that workmen with ‘the Chiefs’ blood in their veins were to be received at ‘ the works,’ tried, employed, and advanced according to their merit. When trade was dull, and hands had to be put on short work or dismissed, kinship was a benefit, for ‘ the Chiefs ’ relations, provided they were industrious and of good character, were protected against the reverses to which labour is liable in times of commercial stagnation. And when Robert was brought personally in contact with them, he conversed affectionately with them ‘as relations,’ inquiring after their common kindred, and reminding them of the time when he used to be entertained in their mothers’ cabins.

In the autumn of 1857, Robert Stephenson stayed longer than usual at Newcastle, and made excursions in the neighbourhood to the familiar scenes of his youth. Accompanied by Mr. Matthew Bigge and Mr. Charles Manby, he went to Killingworth. He always enjoyed a trip to the old cottage on the West Moor, but this autumn the events of the jaunt were unusually gratifying.

After visiting the ship-building yard of Messrs. Mitchell and Son at Walker, the three companions went on to Long Benton. On their way they passed the blacksmith’s shop to which Robert in his boyhood used to trudge with a load of picks on his shoulders. ‘ Ay,’ he exclaimed, ‘ that’s where I used to carry the pitmen’s picks to get them mended.’ Coming to the rivulet that runs under the bridge near Long Benton churchyard, he said, ‘ That’s where I have fished for many an hour.’ In the same way, on entering the ‘parson’s field’ before the West Moor cottage, he observed that ‘ it was the field in which he used to torment the cows, by bringing down the electricity to their tails, by his kite-string.’

As they crossed the colliery tram-way before the cottage, they came on an old man, stationed there as gate-keeper.

‘ How long have you been here ? ’ asked Robert, accosting the man.

‘ Why, aboon forty year,’ was the answer.

‘ And what do they call you ? ’

‘ Why, they ca’ me Clark, bot wha’ ar’ thoo .P ’

‘ I’m Robert Stephenson.’

‘ What! Robert Stephenson ? ’ stammered the old man, collecting his wits.

‘ Yes, George’s Robert,’ answered Mr. Stephenson.

At the time these sentences were exchanged, the old man was getting his tea, holding a hunch of dark bread in one hand, and a tin can of hot tea in the other. Becoming greatly excited, the aged workman put down his tin vessel and bread on a bench, and grasping Robert by both hands, exclaimed, ‘ Eh man, but a’s varry glad to see thoo.’

And then with tears in his dim eyes, a smile on his face, and a choking in his voice, the veteran went on— ‘ Mony a time I’ve paid (i.e. beaten) thy heed, for thoo was a hemp (i.e. an idle, saucy fellow), and thoo was niver oot o’ mischief, when thoo cam on th’ pit heap wi’ thy fether’s meat.’

Passing on to the cottage, Robert inspected the sundial, the plan of which his boyish hands had traced ; and then knocking at the door he asked for admission to the rooms in which so large a period of his early life had been passed. Of course he was received with hearty Northumberland welcome by the good woman who opened the door.

The first thing that struck Robert’s eye on entering the cottage was that the little recess in the wall, where his blackbird best fiked to stand forty years before, had been blocked up. ‘ What has thoo done with my blackbird’s corner ? ’ was his enquiry to the surprised dame, who marvelled not a little at the question. The next thing that caught his eye was a piece of furniture, embracing the conveniences of escritoire and book-case, that reached from the floor to the ceiling of the principal room. It was the work of his father’s hands, and in the autumn of 1859 remained in the room where its artificer placed it.

‘ Do you know there is a secret drawer in that desk ? ’ Robert enquired of the dame who was playing the part of hostess.

‘ It has nae secret drawer,’ answered the woman sturdily.

‘ Oh, but it has ; ’ replied Robert, stepping forward as he spoke, ‘ I know it has: for it was made by my father.’

In another moment the button was touched, and the hidden drawer flew open : but to the disappointment of the spectators it was empty.

Till that moment the people of the cottage had been ignorant of the concealed contrivance, and of the fact that the piece of furniture was made by George Stephenson.

After gossiping with the people of the cottage for a few minutes longer, Robert Stephenson rose with tears in his eyes, and for the last time crossed the threshold of the old home. Miss Tate (the niece of Robert’s playmate, John Tate), who three years since, when collections for this biography were being made, was hostess of the ale-house (the ‘Closing Hill House’) at the West Moor, recalls how Robert, in the year preceding this last visit to Killingworth, called at the ‘ Closing Hill House,’ and enquired for the landlord, Robert Tate—John Tate’s brother.

Robert was then suffering from illness, and so grey and changed in appearance had he become, that Robert Tate on entering the room did not recognise him.

‘ What, don’t you know me, old friend 1 ’ asked Robert, much affected.

‘ Why —’ said Tate, after a pause, ‘ it must be Robert Stephenson.’

‘ Ay, my lad,’ answered Robert; ‘ it’s all that’s left of him.’

Then, sitting down in the little ale-house parlour, Robert Stephenson spent an hour and a half talking affectionately about days that were of the past to his ‘ old friend ’ Tate, and to the neighbours who chanced to ‘ drop in.’ Recalling the great man’s demeanour on that occasion. Miss Tate says, ‘He was full of condescension.’

Just about the same time that Robert paid his ‘last visit to the old home,’ he went over to Wylam, and looked once more at his father’s birth-place.* Among other village worthies whom he then honoured with a call was Isaac Jackson—one of those ingenious, self- taught mechanicians, with whom the black-field of Northumbria abounds. Isaac Jackson’s clocks are well reputed in pitmen’s cabins for miles round, and at the time of Robert Stephenson’s last visit to his father’s native village, the foremost craftsman of the little community was busy in making a clock of more than ordinary excellence. Ever ready to show his sympathy with genius labouring under difficulties, Robert gave Isaac Jackson an order for a clock—made in his very best style. With due deliberation, Isaac executed the commission by the end of the following year. On December 14, 1858, the clock was sent to the late Mr. Weallens at the works, and when Robert received it, he not only paid the sum charged by the maker (£33), but added as a complimentary fee £6. One would like to know by what computation Robert restrained his liberality, so that the entire sum paid was just £1 short of even money.

In the same autumn, after visiting for the last time Gateshead and Killingworth, Robert Stephenson started on a yachting expedition with his friends Mr. Kell, Mr. G. P. Bidder, and Mr. Elliot. In a letter, which gives a picture of ‘ Life on board the Titania,’ Mr. Kell, on his return to Gateshead, wrote to his sister :—

October 26, 1857.

MY DEAR SISTER,— I have had a most delightful excursion since I saw you at Harrogate. My old friend and schoolfellow Robert Stephenson came down here in his schooner yacht, ‘ Titania,’ with a crew of sixteen men, a good cook, and a first- rate cellar—and he impressed me on board on a voyage to Aberdeen, Peterhead, Cromarty, Inverness, along the Caledonian Canal, through the magnificent Lochs Ness, Aich, and Lochy to Loch EiL We had an ample supply of astronomic and mathematical instruments; and one person on board, at least, knew how to use them. We made repeated observations on the temperature of the water at the surface, and at various depths, at one place in Loch Ness at a depth of 170 fathoms. Mr. Bidder, Mr. Elliot, and I composed the guests, and our discussions over our cigars in the evenings were most interesting...... Then away for Holyhead; and having examined the gigantic works of the harbour of refuge there, we devoted a day to the Britannia Bridge. I can never forget the interest which the designer and executor of that magnificent monument of skill and enterprise excited in us, as he described in his quiet way the general design, the objects to be effected by the different parts, the difficulties encountered and overcome in the erection, and the fact that if each of the enormous tubes were sawn through in the middle, the bridge would carry the trains. The principal part of the description was given on the top of the tube, on a beautiful morning, in full view of the Naples-like scenery of the Menai Straits, and the distant Welsh mountains, Snowdon and its associates. We smoked a cigar in quiet contemplation before we left the spot, none of the party being disposed to speak, and returned to Holyhead quite delighted. The next morning I had intended returning home, but when I got on deck, the yacht was spanking before the wind, which in a very few hours wafted us to Kingston Harbour. Judge Keogh gave us some amusing reminiscences of his discussions in the smoking-room, with Bright, Cobden, Stephenson, and other friends of both sides of the house.....The judge, his lady, and a party paid us a return visit on board the ‘Titania,’ and were delighted with the elegance and accommodation of the saloon and cabins, but not particularly so with the boat passage in the harbour, where a rolling swell had been raised by the easterly wind, which had begun to blow, and which, increasing to a gale, has since caused fearful damage and loss of life. The only misfortune that befell us was on the night we sailed from Sunderland, when, off the Bell Rock, the wind freshened and northered, the sea rose, and at 11.30 P.M. two waves (sailors call them seas') met on our deck, and broke on board—filled the cutter which was on davits seven feet above the deck, and broke the after davit (an iron bar of great strength). The boat -was recovered with great difficulty, minus the oars, benches, and floor. Mr. Stephenson was standing on the weatherside of the saloon. He was pitched off his feet, and thrown to the lee side, with his head against a lamp fixed by a gimbal to the waintscoting, breaking the lamp, and the bronze gimbal cutting his head severely. He was also bruised by falling against the front of the sofa. I was in bed, and tried to get up, but could not keep my feet until the vessel was brought up to the wind. Mr. Stephenson suffered from the bruises for a few days, but recovered ere we got through the Caledonian Canal, and we were as hearty as crickets. I have told you what we did. I must now tell you how we lived. There was a capital library on board, and a gimbal lamp at each bed-head, and each man before going to bed selected a book. At seven in the morning a cup of coffee was served in bed to each man, who then read or snoozed till nine; when the decks having been washed, the brass hand-rails and passages all cleaned, he dressed and came on deck.

The good library of the ‘ Titania ’ is a fact worthy of notice. In years intervening between 1850 and 1859, Robert Stephenson, having more leisure, became a more general reader than he had been. He read books of all kinds, and on a great variety of subjects—selecting them himself, and judging of them for himself, without the aid of critical guidance.

The parliamentary season of 1858, Robert Stephenson passed principally in town— apparently enjoying average health, but really giving way to confirmed disease. Quite reconciled to the thought that his fife would end in the course of a few years, he maintained his old cheerfulness of demeanour in society, and even in solitude he was less subject to fits of melancholy. But the solemn reflections induced by his condition were not stifled or avoided. He began to take his horse exercise in the country, about Hampstead and Wormwood Scrubs, instead of the parks, and occasionally he took solitary drives in his carriage. After his death, it was found that not seldom these drives took him to the churchyard in which his wife lay buried. It was near Mrs. Stephenson’s grave that the strong man, as his strength failed him, could best meditate on the coming change.

His mind, however, was still intent on great works. Though he had withdrawn from the turmoil of his profession, he was inspiring and regulating the labours of younger or stronger engineers. In Norway, under his friendly surveillance, Mr. Bidder was finishing the Norwegian railway. His counsel aided Mr. Bouse in the construction of the Kafir Zeyat viaduct over the Nile. In Canada, Mr. Ross was carrying to completion the grand viaduct which the inventor of tubular structures designed in the outset, and controlled in every perilous crisis. And in Sunderland, Mr. Phipps was acting upon his instructions for the preservation of the Wear Bridge. He was also deeply interested in the construction of Brunei’s Leviathan Ship.

His appearances at the Royal Society Club, and his speech on the Suez Canal in the House of Commons, have been already mentioned. He went much into general society, and entertained his friends at the customary Sunday lunches. It was also the second year of his Presidency over the Institution of Civil Engineers, and whilst he filled that office he entertained his professional comrades at weekly dinners.

In the autumn he started for Egypt in the ‘Titania,’ accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Perry, Captain Bedford Pim, and Miss Bidder. The ‘ Titania ’ left her moorings in the Southampton Water at five o’clock A.M., Thursday October 14, 1858, and arrived at Gibraltar on the 27th of the same month. After touching at Malaga, Grenada, and Algiers, the party went on to Malta. The passage from Algiers to Malta was made eventful by a sudden and terrific hurricane, in which the yacht and all on board were within an ace of being lost. On Tuesday, November 3, the ‘ Titania ’ anchored opposite the Pasha’s palace at Alexandria. On Friday, the 27th, the travellers were in Cairo.

In Egypt, escorting a party of ladies to the antiquities, Robert Stephenson was a happy man. He had carefully read every authority on the history, geography, and natural features of the country. The explorations of antiquaries on the banks of the Nile, and disquisitions of critical scholars upon them, were familiar to him as the moves of the board to a chess-player, and he spared no pains in communicating to others the results of his own careful study. Well qualified to be their instructor, he exerted himself to give Mrs. Perry, and the other ladies who took part in the excursions from Alexandria and Cairo, clear and accurate views on every object presented to their curiosity.

Writing to Mr. Thomas Longridge Gooch (then residing at Nice) during this expedition, he said:—

Alexandria; December 5, 1868.

DEAR GOOCH,—I was pleased to receive your note on my arrival, but I find my friends have been so kind in writing that I am overwhelmed at the work I have before me in replying to them. I must therefore cut you short with a very brief epistle. Our voyage was, upon the whole, remarkably fine, rather too much so, as the wind was generally light, with occasional calms of two or three days’ duration. Thus you will see that our climate has been very different from yours. Indeed, I read the papers with much surprise, as regards the lowness of the temperature you had experienced at so early a period of the winter. I heard also that Nice had suffered in a similar way, although not of course to the same extent. Constantinople also, I hear from a gentleman just arrived from thence, is really miserable for cold and snow. They have a theory here which I think is probably correct: viz.—that, when the north of Europe suffers from severe weather, the countries adjacent to the tropics have invariably fine seasons. Last year confirmed the notion, and this year certainly does the same. We leave to-morrow for Cairo, whence a portion of our party will most likely go up to Thebes; but having once been there I do not mean to go again. I shall stay quietly at Cairo and enjoy daily a drive into the desert, which I have always found most invigorating. By the last post I had a message from Brunel, inviting me to dine with him at Cairo on Christmas-day.

This I shall endeavour to do, although at some inconvenience. This circumstance reminds me that I must wish you and your family a merry Christmas and a very happy new year. Believe me, yours sincerely, R. S.

The climate and life of Egypt suited Robert Stephenson, literally ‘intoxicating him with delight.’

The two following letters, one written during his Egyptian excursion in 1856, and the other penned at Algiers in February 1857, are pervaded by a cheerful tone :—

Alexandria: December 22, 1856.

DEAR CLARK,— Many thanks for your kind letter, and I am glad to hear that my coat was of service to you on your way home. You need not forward it to Alexandria, as I shall in all likelihood have left before the next post arrives; but, in case you have done so, I will give instructions to Rouse about it.

I shall not here go into any particulars of our voyage, as I have done so in my letter to G. E. S., which must be considered common property at 24. From it you will perceive that, in consequence of the Viceroy’s absence, I shall probably take a run over to Constantinople, and return to Alexandria, if the intelligence I receive there holds out any prospect of my having an interview with his Highness after his return from Abyssinia—- if he return at all; for I expect, if he persevere, he will be seized with the fever of the country, and never more be heard of.

With respect to your proposed visit to Malta, I can scarcely advise you to do so with the expectation of meeting me, but I am sure it will do Bidder a world of good. The climate is perfectly delicious, and if you only come to Malta for a week or ten days, it will do you both much good; and with such a stay at Malta, it is quite possible I may drop in upon you, in which case we could return by yacht to Marseilles.

My own health is quite a different thing here. I am quite in good spirits, without an atom of hypochondriac feeling, and actually recovering my flesh. A happy new year to you all!

Yours sincerely. ROB. STEPHENSON.

In the following year Robert wrote to the same friend:—

Algiers: Feb. 19, 1857.

DEAR CLARK,— From Bidder you will learn of my movements up to this place, and my remarks on the present condition of the capital of Sicily, which I believe you saw years ago.

This place presents a very remarkable contrast with Palermo at the present moment. The population are active and cheerful, and commerce seems carried on with alacrity and success. The surrounding country is being rapidly brought into a high state of cultivation. Many wealthy French and English farmers (that is to say, for farmers) are extending the science of cultivation very rapidly, and, I understand from one of themselves, with perfect success and ample profit.

The old town of Algiers is of course a complete specimen of Moorish arrangements for domestic establishments— narrow streets not more than nine or ten feet wide, with the upper stories of the houses gradually projecting one beyond the other, so that, to go from the upper rooms of one house into the upper rooms of the opposite one, it is unnecessary to go downstairs. The new town, built since the French took possession, may very fairly be compared to some of the best portions of Paris- excellent cafes and restaurants, elegant shops with all kinds of gay merchandise, and all other matters which an advanced state of civilisation calls for.

We visited a 'cafe chantant' last evening, and it was curious to see how quietly and gracefully the Arab, with his loose flowing garments, mingled with and adapted himself to the European people and their customs. The contrast between the two races in the coffee-room was not more remarkable and interesting than the contrast between the old town built by their ancestors and the new town now being built by the French— the one stolid and sombre, the other excitable and gay. I recollect that the locomotive in Egypt seemed scarcely to excite an emotion in the Arab when he saw it rapidly moving along with an enormous load. Such a scene was entirely beyond his comprehension—that is, his mental powers were not equal to reflecting and reasoning upon it; but the moment he heard the steam whistle, which touched an external sense, he was excited and confounded. This is precisely what we ought to expect where the mind has undergone no culture. The cultivated mind appreciates every new phenomenon with interest and surprise; this is a refinement beyond the reason of the savage. The latter would see the crab creep out of his shell almost as a matter of course, but such an event excites wonder and confounds the philosopher for a time, till reflection and comparison with parallel phenomena convert the event of the crab creeping out of its shell into another link in his chain of reasoning....

The arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Brunel at Cairo, on December 20, 1858, gave Robert Stephenson great satisfaction, Although he was greatly out of health, Brunel was in good spirits, and, in the excitement of holidaymaking, was ready to take an imprudent amount of exercise. When he became fatigued with walking, he mounted a donkey and rode about the streets of Cairo, to all appearance as free from care as a schoolboy. Robert had taken up his quarters at Shepherd’s Hotel; Brunel stayed at the H6tel d’Orient. At Shepherd’s also were Lord and Lady Dufferin. Lady Dufferin pressed Robert Stephenson and his friends to dine with her on Christmas-day; but the prior engagement with Mr. and Mrs. Brunel precluded them from accepting the invitation.

On December 25, 1858, Robert Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel— the two greatest engineers of the nineteenth century—dined together, in company with a few mutual friends, at the Hotel d’Orient, Cairo.

On his return from Egypt, Robert Stephenson stopped for a few weeks in Paris, returning to London on or about February 9, 1859. The change had greatly benefited him. The deep-seated mischief in liver, stomach, and nerves, of course remained untouched, but its most distressing symptoms were less apparent. He was cheerful, and enjoyed an unaccustomed sense of vigour. With characteristic ardour, he returned to the pleasures of English society and the duties of his position. The St. Lawrence and the Sunderland Bridges, and the Norwegian Railway (soon to be completed), the state of the Serpentine, and the Metropolitan Drainage were amongst the objects of his care. He was regular in his attendance in the House. His drives in the country were frequently repeated. In Gloucester Square he was as hospitable an entertainer as in former seasons.

He became very much interested in the proposition for an Atlantic Telegraph. From the day when the first telegraph was put down on his fine between Euston Square and Camden Town, he had been a zealous promoter of telegraphic communication ; and now, in the last year of his life, he consented to act in a commission (composed of himself, Captain Douglas Gallon, R.E., and Professor Wheatstone) appointed by the Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade, and the Atlantic Telegraph Company, ‘ To inquire into the Construction of Submarine Telegraph Cables.’ The first meetings of the committee took place at his private residence. He was also chairman of the Electric Telegraph Company; and to his wise provision of a sinking fund to meet the expense of renewals, the prosperity of the company is mainly due.

Note-books and letters of chat show that he was continually in society. After dinners about town, he several times called on Dr. Percy, at Craven Hill, Bayswater, and smoked a cigar.

On April 11th he attended the meeting of the Geographical Society, where Captain Pim read a paper on the Suez Canal question.

The next day, Mr. Joseph Bonomi read a paper ‘ On the Means suggested by Robert Stephenson, Esq., M.P., for the Extraction of a ponderous Granite Sarcophagus out of the Limestone Cavity in which it had been placed by the Ancient Egyptians.’ In the subsequent discussion, Robert Stephenson, Mr. Sopwith, Mr. Perry, Mr. Jennings, Mr. Sharpe, and others, took part. Mr. William F. Ainsworth (Honorary Secretary of the Syro-Egyptian Society) recalls how all the members on this occasion were struck by the modesty of Robert Stephenson’s language and tone.

On June 4 th he was present at the annual inspection of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and at the subsequent dinner at the Ship Hotel. But as the season wore on, it became manifest that his health was in a more precarious condition than it had ever been. With total loss of appetite, and powers so deranged that the palate could no longer distinguish flavours, with constant lassitude and overwhelming weight of depression, the sick man struggled on bravely.

On June 17th Dr. Percy called upon him in Gloucester Square, and found him, at half-past eleven A.M., eating a few strawberries. On this occasion he spoke more fully than he was wont of his wretched condition, but looked forward hopefully to the time when he could get away from town, and once again enjoy the sea-air. But he did not permit his sufferings to depress him in society. A passage in the records of the Royal Society Club gives the reader a glimpse of him in these last days:—

Among the more recent dinner-parties, that of August 11, 1859, may be noted, a curious incident in its components having given, as will be presently seen, an unusual preponderance to the delegates of practical knowledge; while the various walks of general and abstract science were also ably represented on the occasion.....

Among the visitors on that day was Mr. Thomas Maclear (now Sir Thomas), the Astronomer Royal at the Cape of Good Hope, who had just arrived in England from the southern hemisphere after an absence of a quarter of a century, during which period, besides assiduous attention to his regular observatorial duties, he had measured an important degree of the meridian in Caffraria.....

This was the last time that Mr. Stephenson, the celebrated civil engineer, attended the Club. He was not looking well, nor was he animated with his usual flow of cheerfulness; and he left the room early in order to take his seat at a debate in the House of Commons on cleansing the Serpentine. It was remarked that on this day were present, so to speak, the representatives of the three great applications by which the present age is distinguished—namely, of Railways, Mr. Stephenson; of the Electric Telegraph, Mr. Wheatstone; and of the Penny Post, Mr. Rowland Hill—an assembly never again to occur.

Before the next celebration of the anniversary of the Royal Society Club (July 5, 1860), death had been busy with its members. Dr. Percy had to announce the deaths of Robert Stephenson, General Leake, Rev. Baden Powell, and Robert Edwards Broughton.

It would have been strange had Robert Stephenson manifested ‘ his usual flow of cheerfulness.’ As he sat at that dinner, the gloom of fast-approaching death overshadowed him. Por weeks he had been getting worse in health, and he was convinced that before many more weeks had passed he would be in his grave.

The Club dinner was on August 11. On the morning of the 15th of the same month he embarked in the ‘ Titania ’ for Norway, in order to be present at a banquet to be given him at Christiania on the opening of the Norwegian Railway, and in the hope that change and sea-air might afford him relief.

But, before leaving his native land, he finally revised his will. When it came to be proved, the personalty was sworn under £400,000. The executors appointed under the will were Mr. Charles Parker (the testator’s solicitor), Mr. George Robert Stephenson, C.E., and Mr. George Parker Bidder, C.E. To his cousin, the above- mentioned Mr. George Robert Stephenson, the testator bequeathed aU his interest in the locomotive steam factory at Newcastle, and his interest in the Snibstone collieries in Leicestershire, left him by his father; he also bequeathed to his cousin his leasehold house in Gloucester Square, with its furniture, pictures, statuary, plate, library, wine, and other effects, as well as half the furniture and effects in the office in Great George Street, and a legacy of £50,000. To Mr. George P. Bidder he left the other half of the office furniture and effects, and £10,000, a like sum being bequeathed to Mr. Charles Parker. The testator left also to his cousins, Robert and James Stephenson, £5,000 each; to ten female cousins, on his father’s side, £1,000 each; to Mr. W. Weallens (his partner in the Newcastle Factory), Mr. G. H. Phipps, Mr. Edwin Clark, Mr. T. E. Harrison, Mr. W. H. Budden, Mr. P. H. Stanton, Mr. James Berkeley, Mr. George Berkeley, and Mr. W. Kell, £2,000 each ; to Mr. James Green and Mr. Stockman, £1,000 each; to Mr. George Vaughan, £5,000; to Miss Emily Lister, £4,000 ; to each of that lady’s two sisters, £1,500; for the support of the children of the late Mr. Starbuck, £5,500 ; to Margaret Tomlinson, his housekeeper, £100 per annum for life; to each of his other servants who had been with him a twelvemonth at the time of his death, £20 ; to the Newcastle Infirmary, £10,000 ; to the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Institution, £7,000 ; to the North of England Mining Institution, £2,000; to the Institution of Civil Engineers, £2,000; to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, £2,000 ; and to the Society for Providing Additional Curates in Populous Places, £2,000. The residue of his estate the testator left to his three executors, share and share alike.

Accompanied by a rather numerous party of friends, Robert Stephenson went down to Harwich, off which port the ‘ Titania ’ and Mr. Bidder’s yacht the ‘ Mayfly ’ were lying. Mr. and Mrs. Bidder, Mr. James Harby, jun., and Mr. and Mrs. Perry went on board the ‘ Mayfly.’ Robert Stephenson had for companions in the ‘ Titania.’ Mr. T. L. Gooch, Mr. James Berkeley, Mr. Phipps, and Mr. Haly. Between four and five o’clock A.M. on the 16th the yachts got out to sea, entering the Christiania fjord at 6 A.M. on Sunday, the 21st.

Landing at Christiania, Robert Stephenson was well enough to enjoy a trip along the line from Christiania to the other terminus, Eidswold. The party visited two farms belonging to Mr. Bidder, in the vicinity of the fine; and on September 2 they returned to Christiania, taking up their comfortable quarters on board the yachts.

The next day (September 3) a grand dinner was given to Robert Stephenson. The desire to do him honour may be estimated in some degree by the fact that one hundred and thirty persons were present at the entertainment, who paid two guineas each for their tickets— a sum of no trifling importance in Christiania.

The toast of the evening was introduced with a speech concluding thus ;—

It is sufficient to call to mind how highly our country and our city, which are so greatly interested in this railway, are indebted to Mr. Robert Stephenson. On behalf of our country, our King has already made him deserved acknowledgment. The Olaff Cross on his breast is the witness thereof. But we— the inhabitants of Christiania—what can we do ? Little, very little, where the question concerns a man so significantly honoured in his own country—that mighty empire, over whose dominions the sun never sets! Can we add a fresh laurel to the wreath of honour that already crowns him ? We can only offer him our modest ‘ forget me not,’ and beg him for our own sake to keep it amongst those many and dear tokens of remembrance which his active life has procured him.

Therefore we have met to-day— men of Christiania, of all classes— not to try to honour Mr. Robert Stephenson, but to do honour to ourselves, by showing that we can esteem and gratefully acknowledge high merit.

Mr. Robert Stephenson, we offer you our most hearty thanks for your active zeal and disinterested service in a cause important to our country in general and our city in particular. We wish you health and happiness, and peace in your life’s evening, which —and may the Almighty hear our prayers !—we trust may be bright and gentle—bright as the evening sun resting on snow-clad mountains, gentle as a quiet summer evening in our peaceful valleys.

It may perhaps be the last time you visit our country and its capital. We do not beg you to preserve in your mind our country, with its great mountains, clear lakes, and sunny vales. Nature herself has put so peculiar a stamp on our fatherland, and adorned it with such rich and lovely colours, that no one can see it and easily forget it. You, Mr. Stephenson, with a mind and heart open to nature’s beauties, will be the very last to forget it, struck as you were by the first sight of it.

What we will only beg of you is, that, when you have returned to your active life in your own mighty country, you will allow your thoughts to take flight to the capital of Norway and to its grateful inhabitants.

Robert Stephenson had intended entertaining the assembly with a sketch of the rise and progress of railway enterprise—feeling that, though the majority of his audience would not understand the English tongue, they would appreciate his remarks when they read them on the following morning translated in their journals. On taking his seat, he was so comparatively easy and free from pain, that he thought he should be able to carry out his intention. But, just before he was required to rise, an attack of nausea and faintness rendered him powerless to do more than give utterance to the following remarks, which are of interest as being his last public speech—

Gentlemen: Although I was not ahle to understand the last speech, yet I heard my own name mentioned so repeatedly, that I know it was addressed to me. I have also had the honour to receive here a translation of its contents. I see from it that far greater merits are attributed to me than I should dare to attribute to myself. It is unnecessary to recapitulate the advantages of a railway to a country in advancing commerce and stimulating industry; they are truths everywhere acknowledged and well understood. But there are a few points in the last speech to which I will take the liberty of calling your attention. I find that the honour of the railway is altogether ascribed to me. This is not just. At the same time that you have yourselves to thank for it, there are also two other men to whom the honour is to be ascribed quite as much as to me, and indeed more than to me. I name first Mr. Consul-General Crowe, who, attentive to the capabilities of your country, conceived the idea, and gave the first impulse to the undertaking; and next Mr. Bidder, who has the undivided merit of carrying out the idea. He has the honour of having built the railway for an extremely low cost; he has built it for the sum of ^450,000, which is less than, under the circumstances, could have been hoped or expected. It is thus to Mr. Bidder that the chief honour belongs for establishing this railway, which is now completed with English skill, aided by no inconsiderable Norwegian capital and liberality. It is quite true, as I read in the translation before me, that I have been occupied with great works in other places. I have been employed in Canada, in Egypt, in Belgium, in Russia, and I may say in nearly every country in Europe. But if I could ascribe to myself the whole merit here among you, I should act unjustly towards the two gentlemen I have already named, Mr. Bidder and Mr. Crowe, to whom so much is owing—to whom more is due than to me. But let me express my sincere gratitude for the present festival by which I am so much honoured. It is probably the last time I shall meet the citizens of Christiania. I shall leave your country on Monday. But I cannot leave you without expressing my best wishes for this town, my most cordial wishes for Christiania, which has contributed so much to the existence of this railway, and to whose prosperity and happiness this railway will contribute so much. I should wish once to come back here to see the results—the advantages on which I now congratulate the town. Prosperity and happiness to Christiania ’.

Thus modestly did Robert Stephenson, in his last public speech, direct to others the eulogies showered upon himself. Throughout his career—-from the day, when as a stripling he directed the Colombian mines, to that occasion of sad festivity at Christiania—was he thus cautious not to appropriate to himself the honour due to his companions.

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