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leisure on the various matters that interested me. Thus was induced a receptiveness of mind which enabled me at different times to utilize what appeared to me as sudden intuitionsflashes of light leading to a solution of some problem which was then before me; and these flashes would often come to me when, pen in hand, I was engaged in writing on a subject on which I had no intention or expectation of saying anything


There is one other point in which most of my scientific friends and readers will hold that I am deficient, but which in a popular writer on science may be considered to be an advantage. It is, that though fond of order and systematic arrangement of all the parts of a subject, and especially of an argument, I am yet, through my want of the languagefaculty, very much disinclined to use technical terms wherever they can be avoided. This is especially the case when a subject is elaborately divided up under various subordinate groups and sub-groups, each with a quite new technical name. This often seems to me more confusing than enlightening, and when other writers introduce different terms of their own, or use them in a somewhat different sense, or still further subdivide the groups, the complication becomes too great for the non-specialist to follow.

Before leaving the sketch of my mental nature at the threshold of my uncontrolled life, I may properly say a few words on the position I had arrived at in regard to the great question of religious belief. I have already shown that my early home training was in a thoroughly religious but by no means rigid family, where, however, no religious doubts were ever expressed, and where the word "atheist" was used with bated breath as pertaining to a being too debased almost for human society. The only regular teaching I received was to say or hear a formal prayer before going to bed, hearing grace before and after dinner, and learning a collect every Sunday morning, the latter certainly one of the most stupid ways of inculcating religion ever conceived. On Sunday evenings, if we did not go to church or chapel, my father

would read some old sermon, and when we did go we were asked on our return what was the text. The only books allowed to be read on Sundays were the " Pilgrim's Progress" or "Paradise Lost," or some religious tracts or moral tales, or the more interesting parts of the Bible were read by my mother, or we read ourselves about Esther and Mordecai or Bel and the Dragon, which were as good as any story book. But all this made little impression upon me, as it never dealt sufficiently with the mystery, the greatness, the ideal and emotional aspects of religion, which only appealed to me occasionally in some of the grander psalms and hymns, or through the words of some preacher more impassioned than usual.

As might have been expected, therefore, what little religious belief I had very quickly vanished under the influence of philosophical or scientific scepticism. This came first upon me when I spent a month or two in London with my brother John, as already related in my sixth chapter; and during the seven years I lived with my brother William, though the subject of religion was not often mentioned, there was a pervading spirit of scepticism, or free-thought as it was then called, which strengthened and confirmed my doubts as to the truth or value of all ordinary religious teaching.

He occasionally borrowed interesting books which I usually read. One of these was an old edition of Rabelais' works, which both interested and greatly amused me; but that which bears most upon the present subject was a reprint of lectures on Strauss' "Life of Jesus," which had not then been translated into English. These lectures were, I think, delivered by some Unitarian minister or writer, and they gave an admirable and most interesting summary of the whole work. The now well-known argument, that all the miracles related in the Gospels were mere myths, which in periods of ignorance and credulity always grow up around all great men, and especially around all great moral teachers when the actual witnesses of his career are gone and his disciples begin to write about him, was set forth with great skill. This argument appeared conclusive to my brother and

some of his friends with whom he discussed it, and, of course, in my then frame of mind it seemed equally conclusive to me, and helped to complete the destruction of whatever religious beliefs still lingered in my mind. It was not till many years afterwards that I saw reason to doubt this whole argument, and to perceive that it was based upon pure assumptions which were not in accordance with admitted historical facts.

My brother never went to church himself, but for the first few years I was with him he sent me once every Sunday; but, of course, the only effect of this was to deepen my spirit of scepticism, as I found no attempt in any of the clergymen to reason on any of the fundamental questions at the root of the Christian and every other religion. Many of our acquaintances were either church- or chapel-goers, but usually as a matter of form and convention, and, on the whole, religion seemed to have no influence whatever on their conduct or conversation. The majority, especially of the younger men, were either professors of religion who thought or cared nothing about it, or were open sceptics and scorners.

In addition to these influences my growing taste for various branches of physical science and my increasing love of nature disinclined me more and more for either the observances or the doctrines of orthodox religion, so that by the time I came of age I was absolutely non-religious, I cared and thought nothing about it, and could be best described by the modern term "agnostic."

The next four years of my life were also of great importance both in determining the direction of my activity, and in laying the foundation for my study of the special subjects through which I have obtained most admiration or notoriety. This period will be dealt with in another chapter, as it proved to be that which, through a series of what may be termed happy accidents, laid the foundation for everything of importance that succeeded them.



As I came of age in January, 1844, and there was nothing doing at Neath, I left my brother about the middle of December so as to spend the Christmas with my mother and sister at Hoddesdon, after which I returned to London, sharing my brother John's lodging till I could find some employment. At that time the tithe-commutation surveys were nearly all completed, and the rush of railway work had not begun surveying was consequently very slack. As my brother William, who had a large acquaintance among surveyors and engineers all over the south of England, could not find employment, except some very small local business, I felt it to be quite useless for me to seek for similar work. I therefore determined to try for some post in a school to teach English, surveying, elementary drawing, etc. Through some school agency I heard of two vacancies that might possibly suit. The first required, in addition to English, junior Latin and algebra. Though I had not looked at a Latin book since I left school, I thought I might possibly manage; and as to algebra, I could do simple equations, and had once been able to do quadratics, and felt sure I could keep ahead of beginners. So with some trepidation I went to interview the master, a rather grave but kindly clergyman. I told him my position, and what I had been doing since I left school. He asked me if I could translate Virgil, at which I hesitated, but told him I had been through most of it at school. So he brought out the book and gave

me a passage to translate, which, of couse, I was quite unable to do properly. Then he set me a simple equation, which I worked easily. Then a quadratic, at which I stuck. So he politely remarked that I required a few months' hard work to be fitted for his school, and wished me good morning.

My next attempt was more hopeful, as drawing, surveying, and mapping were required. Here, again, I met a clergyman, but a younger man, and more easy and friendly in his manner. I had taken with me a small coloured map I had made at Neath to serve as a specimen, and also one or two pencil sketches. These seemed to satisfy him, and as I was only wanted to take the junior classes in English reading, writing, and arithmetic, teach a very few boys surveying, and beginners in drawing, he agreed to engage me. I was to live in the house, preside over the evening preparation of the boarders (about twenty in number), and to have, I think, thirty or forty pounds a year, with which I was quite satisfied. I was to begin work in about a fortnight. My employer was the Rev. Abraham Hill, headmaster of the Collegiate School at Leicester.

I stayed at the school a little more than a year, and should probably have remained some years longer, and perhaps even have been a junior school assistant all my life, but for a quite unexpected event-the death of my brother William. I was very comfortable at the school, owing to the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Hill, and of the opportunities afforded me for reading, study, and the observation of nature. In my duties I got on fairly well, as the boys were mostly well-behaved, though, of course, my ignorance and shyness led to some unpleasantness. The first evening I sat with the boys at their work, one of the older ones came to me to ask me to explain a difficult passage to him in some classic-I forget which-evidently to test my knowledge or ignorance. So I declined even to look at it, and told him that I taught English only, and that for all other information they were to go to Mr. Hill himself. On another occasion the classical assistant master asked me to

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