Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: EARLY EDUCATION. - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 10 (The Life)
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CHAPTER IV.: EARLY EDUCATION. - Mrs. Russell Barrington, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 10 (The Life) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 10.
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Walter Bagehot’s education was begun by a governess, Miss Jones, who came into the family when Walter was five years old, and remained a faithful and confidential retainer for forty years. From earliest boyhood he learnt much that was worth having from his parents. Moreover, their intelligent devotion engendered in him a happiness of being, a joyful play of mind during the first years of his life which stimulated his mental powers when they first began to move forward. It gave him that confidence which a child wants before he dares be himself. Much strength for the future is lost by a want of happiness in childhood. Other things may be learnt through the discipline of the cross, but for the bud to expand quite healthily sunshine it must have, and sunshine in abundance Walter Bagehot had as a child in his home life. Furthermore, he grew up in an atmosphere steeped in religion—and in a variety of views of religion.
When he was about six years old he wrote the following letter to his Aunt Reynolds—his father’s sister. The words are written between lines, very distinct—each letter being half an inch high:—
(Directed) Mrs. Reynolds, London.
“My very dear Aunt,
“I thank you for the book you sent me, and Brother thanks Uncle. I want to ask you for another Daily Food for Christians, because keeping this sometimes in my pocket and reading the text and poetry in it every morning, it is nearly worn out, and I am afraid I shall lose the leaves. Mamma is afraid you will think me a bold and troublesome little boy, but she says I am yet so ignorant that I do not know, but I am doing you a favour. I do not agree with her. I hope you do not either. The new man servant James 2nd is come to-day, our James is going upon the Hill (Hill House). Papa and I have been playing a good game of top. All send their love and to dear Kate too.
“Your affectionate Nephew,
Mrs. Bagehot doubtless thought that her sister-in-law could not be given a greater treat than to be asked for another of her evangelical tracts.
Walter’s father was a spiritually-minded Unitarian; therefore he attended the Unitarian service conducted by his father in the drawing-room of Herd’s Hill every Sunday morning. His mother was a Churchwoman of decided Church of England views, therefore he went with her to the services in Langport and Huish churches alternately every Sunday afternoon. His Aunt and Uncle Reynolds, to whom all his life he was much attached, were extremely Low Church, and from them he heard much denunciation of the Pope and the Papists.
Mrs. Reynolds, a sister of Mr. Bagehot’s, was possessed of a happy sense of humour, and was noted as being “excellent company”. Mr. Reynolds was an able and good man, and had had a remarkable career. After distinguishing himself for sixteen years in the Civil Service, from the age of thirty-two1 he devoted his heart labour to religious causes. He founded the Home and Colonial Training Schools in London, besides forwarding the Colonial and Continental Church Society, African Missions, the Malta College, the London City Mission, and various other religious enterprises. He started in 1823 and maintained for many years an efficient infant school at Fulham, and in 1828 with a few friends, Mr. Reynolds established the Record newspaper, and for more than forty years promoted its welfare. On a somewhat different line Mr. Reynolds was also an authority. He was a first-rate judge of a horse. Walter Bagehot never bought one without consulting “my Uncle Reynolds”.
While studying law in London, Walter Bagehot paid various visits to Oxford, staying with his friend Constantine Prichard, a fellow of Balliol. There he came under the influence of John Henry Newman, whose Anglican sermons he admired enormously. Stuckey Coles, well known as one of the leading lights among Anglicans, was his cousin, and established and supported a centre for Anglican priests at Shepton Beauchamp, eight miles from Herd’s Hill, where his father was the “Squarson”. At the age of sixteen Walter Bagehot went to University College in London, and there met his life-long friend, Richard Hutton, who at that time intended to become a Unitarian Minister, as his father had been before him. Mr. Hutton and Walter Bagehot kept up a constant correspondence, the subjects of many of their letters being Moral Philosophy and Religion. Theology never took a more prominent part in any layman’s life of thought than it did in that of Walter Bagehot’s, and few divines have mastered their Bible more thoroughly than he did, thanks to his mother’s insistent teaching.
As will be seen in the following letter written by his father while the family was at Blue Anchor spending the usual holiday by the sea, Walter early began to try his hand at poetry.
(Addressed) Master Walter Bagehot, Blue Anchor (aged 7).
“Langport, “17th June, 1833.
“My dear Boy,
“I cannot let Miss Jones go without thanking you for your letter. I assure you I wish myself back again with you very much indeed and should be glad to hear the sound of the dashing waves and to climb the rocks and brave the deep and journey about with Mamma and you picking spicata—but I must not think of it yet, for little or great boys must not be idle either, and I must do my work before I play. The mail with its four horses soon took me away from you on Friday and carried me through a very pretty country to Taunton where Bob was waiting for me and brought me home just about the time of your fifth dip as I calculated.
“Mamma tells me you are becoming a poet and I shall look forward some day or other to our having a ‘Sir Walter’ in our own family.
“Your sword is sent, and as to-morrow is the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, I suppose you will be very grand on the occasion. How would you have liked living at Brussels when the cannons began to roar and the soldiers were summoned to the field?
“I must close directly as Miss Jones is just going off in the phaeton.”
This said sword played an active part in Walter’s life at that time. He would use it at Herd’s Hill to lash off the heads of flowers with terrible force, imagining himself the leader of hosts and the demolisher of thousands and ten thousands of the Saracens. He lived much in his imagination, and his mother and aunt, Mrs. Michell, who when a widow lived constantly at Herd’s Hill, recounted to us many of his exploits as a child while led by its inspirations. His serious education began at the age of eight or nine as a day scholar under the teaching of the notable Mr. Quekett, for fifty-six years the able master of the anciently endowed Langport Grammar School, still flourishing in the old building, half way up the Hill of Langport. During the last year when Walter attended this school, he wrote to his mother while she was visiting her brother in Sloane Street the following letter—
“18th May, 1838.
“We are all going on very well without you, and Papa and I have such nice chats about Sir R. Peel and the little Queen. Papa has quite made up his mind since he had read our friend the Duke’s speech that the Queen did quite right and blames ‘the Right Hon. Baronet’ for making the ladies of so much consequence since they could only use the ladies’ privilege of railing against everybody and everything. I have done my lessons most days and of course find I cannot do them nearly as well without you, particularly the French. Remember my French dictionary. Do you think I ever can survive two days’ holidays without you? I think I may say possibly; but I suppose, or rather am certain, that I shall miss you very much. I have read the review of Doctor Cumming’s work in the Monthly, and like him much better since I find he thinks Egypt a delightful country and advises some persons to go out with the intention of building a boarding-house for the sick, travellers, etc. I hope some one will take his advice. I have some thoughts of spending a month or two there!
“And now, my dear Mamma, I must conclude with entreating you to remember that everywhere you carry the thought of your affectionate son,
“Excuse bad writing for, as Jenny Deans says, I have ‘but one and ill pen’.”
Later in the year Mrs. Bagehot visits her sister-in-law, Mrs. Reynolds, at Hampstead, and Walter writes:—
“This day is the first of November. Oh, how different from the last two! The comparison makes me feel so happy that you are not gone away ill. I am in a great deal better spirits since Papa came home. I know it ought not to be so, but I can’t help it.
“The water has got up into the Moor which occasions great commotions in the school for fear it will be too wet to have a bonfire and let off fireworks. T. Paul surmises that they have let the water in because the boys shall not have a bonfire; but the fact wants confirmation, he having, as I can learn, no authority for it but his own thoughts. I have to write the Life of Alfred the Great for Papa. I find it rather difficult, more so I think than the Battle of Mantinea. I have read his reign in Hume who doesn’t of course breath a syllable about religion but praises him most extremely on account of his improvements in the English Law and Literature.”
To his Papa, he writes:—
“Since you have told me to give an account of the battle of Marathon in my own words, I will do it to the best of my ability.”
Then follows a short but excellent account of the battle. On 8th October, 1838, again he writes:—
“My dear Papa,
“I will now, as you requested, attempt, and I hope to your satisfaction, the Life of Alfred (justly surnamed the Great). I shall consider Alfred in his double character of a prince and scholar, and to render his reign intelligible I shall give a short account of the Anglo-Saxons down to that time.”
Whereupon follows a very long essay full of instruction. On 13th October, 1838, he writes:—
“Since you were pleased with my account of the battle of Marathon, I will try to succeed better in that of Mantinea.”
On 25th November, he writes:—
“My dear Mamma,
“I will now attempt the life of St. Augustine of Hippo. This bulwark of orthodoxy was born at Tagaste, a town in Africa.”
A very long account of the life of the Saint follows. On 18th December, 1838, he writes:—
“My letter to Mamma contained, as you know, an account of St. Augustine; this one will contain a brief” (not very brief) “life of Julius Caesar.”
To finish up this course of six essays he writes a very lengthy one to his Mamma:—
“This letter will contain an account of Socrates.”
All six essays, written in three months, are remarkable as the work of a boy of twelve. Walter Bagehot had already learned how to read, in itself an art, also he had learned how to grip the main points of his subject, and could manage his detail with creditable skill.
It may be thought that too much space has been accorded to Walter Bagehot’s birthplace, earlier life, home and family, but in order to convey a true likeness of him, I feel the aid of his surroundings from his childhood must be enlisted. His genius singled him out from his belongings; but that genius was moulded very directly by the atmosphere of his home life, and by the characters of his relations. Unlike many distinguished men who pass out into the world from their early home into a new atmosphere of feeling and associations, Walter Bagehot never let go in any sense the ties and interests that bound him to the family life at Herd’s Hill. Though his intellect moved on singularly detached and independent lines, his affections, which filled so large a part of his nature, clung tenaciously to those he cared for, and to those for whom he had any reason to feel grateful.
The next move in Walter Bagehot’s education was to Bristol College, where he remained three years, from August, 1839, to the summer holidays of 1842. Here his career was brilliant. On entering the College, being thirteen years of age, he took up four subjects—Classics, Mathematics, German and Hebrew—and, as a rule, came out first at the examinations in all four; sometimes in one subject far ahead of competitors who had made that one their sole study. During part of the last year of his studies there he was in a class by himself. He worked during these three years with great zeal and enjoyment, and found time out of school hours to take private lessons with the Mathematical Master of the college, to gratify his passion for reading, and to attend lectures given by the well-known Dr. Carpenter on Natural Philosophy, Zoology, and Chemistry. He made friends with two of his fellow students and was looked up to by all the boys. His exceptional gifts, combined with great natural modesty, high spirits, and the curiously powerful influences his individuality and original humour exercised, gave him from early youth a very distinct position of his own.
His father, himself the most modest of men, inculcated early in Walter the “charm” of modesty. “As I said in my first letter to you,” he writes, “work as hard as you can, but be modest, for to be so is a great charm in boys, and the more so, the cleverer they are.”
With a few other students, he lived with the Rev. E. Bromley at Clifton, but spent most of his non-working hours at the houses of Dr. Prichard and Mr. Estlin, Mr. Estlin being the brother of his mother’s first husband, and Dr. Prichard’s wife, Mr. Estlin’s sister. His intimate friends were Killigrew Wait, who became a prominent citizen in Bristol and Member for Gloucester, and Sir Edward Fry, who gives the following description of Walter’s appearance as he recollects it at that time:—
“Bagehot, when I first knew him, might perhaps be described as a lanky youth, rather thin and long in the legs, with a countenance of remarkable vivacity and characterised by the large eyes which were always noticeable, and about which he used at one time to entertain amusing conceits. He used to say that Crabbe Robinson had got on at the Bar by his chin, and that he hoped to do the like by his own eyes.”
Two hundred and more letters have been preserved which were interchanged between Walter and his parents when he was at Bristol College. His father’s natural tastes seemed at variance with the work which he had chosen as his occupation in life. His conscientiousness is, however, the more evident on account of this variance. Literary, political, and intellectual pursuits generally, and those which nurtured the sense of beauty, were the natural bent of his mind; whereas, probably from a sense of duty, Mr. Bagehot chose a path in life which was, comparatively speaking, intellectually restricted. Once having chosen it, his constancy and tenacity made him continue in it with unfailing devotion. By far the greater part of his life was usurped by business in the counting houses of Stuckey’s Bank, and of the Merchant’s business at “the Bridge”; and, however uncongenial such a life may often have been, his conscientiousness never allowed him to indulge in his more favourite pursuits in or out of business hours, if any business could be forwarded by his attending to it. He looked upon being ill as a great treat, for he could then indulge in the “forced leisure” which enabled him to enjoy life. He wrote to Walter on 11th December, 1842: “During my illness I have had one half day, nay nearly two, of the luxury of the leisure forced on me, and have read some of McIntosh’s life with great interest; but Saturday and Sunday, when I was first taken, were days of suffering and annoyance.” In the same letter he writes: “Her (Walter’s mother) mind is in a nervous state, which a trifle seems occasionally to excite and could ill bear any serious burden, so I have not had so much to delight me as in some of my illnesses.”
In intercourse with his boy, however, he felt he could combine intellectual pleasure with parental duty. Walter, from childhood, besides being the life and fun of the home, was also an intellectual companion both to his father and mother. When the parting had to come and he went to College at Bristol, this interesting intercourse was continued through letters in which public, as well as private matters, were fully discussed between them.
“I travelled on to Cheddar,” his father writes, after leaving Walter at College, “with my thoughts wholly fixed on you, and with a parent’s prayer for your happiness, and I believe I have thought of little else since my return; and both Mamma and I are longing to hear from you. I drank tea at Cheddar in the room in which we had so happy a breakfast the day before; and afterwards, when the rain ceased, strolled up the hill among the rocks, which, in the shade of the evening, looked very beautiful and grand. I moralised a little there, and then set off; but before I came home, both Felix and I were heartily tired, and I had a sad headache.”
Ten days later he writes: “I wish I could be with you, but as that cannot be, we must gladden each other’s hearts by writing as often as we can, and telling each other, not only what is passing without, but within us, and keeping up a constant interchange of thought. Everything good is interesting to us, and we long for your letters as much as you could wish. . . . It must be Stummy’s (nickname for Watson, Walter’s ‘foster-brother’) province to give you a history of the important events that are constantly, as usual, occurring here—the Kite flying, the Gull crying, etc., etc.; but you may picture us to yourself, wandering about at Herd’s Hill, still admiring its bright mornings and serene and beautiful moonlight nights, although having lost in you one of its greatest charms, we cannot feel the same lightheartedness we sometimes did when you were at home, and I hope to do again, when you return.”
Walter dutifully carried out his parents’ wish that he should keep a journal which still exists and which gave them a detailed account of the hours, the nature, and the special difficulties of his various studies. Much as he relished these studies, he counted the months, weeks and days to the holidays, and enjoyed them when they came with intoxicating delight.
After returning to Bristol College after the first Easter holidays, Walter writes to his father:—
“When I was reading Smollett the other day I met with a very curious instance of the dislike political men have to ‘the dreary realms of Opposition,’ and how much consistency one party is willing to sacrifice, if it can but embarrass its opponents. When the Whigs were in office, Queen Anne wished them to use their whole influence to pass the Bill for the Union of Scotland and England, through the English Parliament; and the Tories unsuccessfully opposed it, and year after year they went on battling, the Tories constantly bringing forward the Bill for the repeal of the Union. At last Queen Anne quarrelled with her Whig Ministers, and the Tories came into power. But Queen Anne made an express condition of their taking office that they would no longer contend for the repeal of the Union. On the meeting of Parliament, the Whigs brought forward a motion for the repeal of that Union which they had so long supported; and which Union was upheld by the influence of the Tories who had so long opposed it.
“I cannot be sorry that you miss me, and I do not know that I shall try. Write to me again very soon.”
His father answers his letter:—
“. . . I was interested in the account you gave me of what you had read in Smollett. It is sad, indeed, to see to what extent party feeling carries both able, and in the main, honest men; and there is nothing which we have to learn more difficult, and that requires more untiring watchfulness and firmer principle, than the method of preserving the mind from improper influences. A strong love of truth and the seeking it for its own sake, must be the ground on which all our endeavours must rest; but there are too many enemies ready to displace us, so that we must be ever on our guard, and ready to defend ourselves. A love of ease, and an unwillingness to examine into the foundation of things long settled, as far as we are concerned—a fondness for our own opinion, and a dislike of allowing that we were, or are mistaken—are some among the numerous enemies to be resisted, beside the heavy and weighty troops of pounds, shillings and pence, and patronage and power.”
Mrs. Bagehot as a rule spent part of the London season with her brother in Sloane Street. Letters relate how she drove as far as Andover in his coach. She writes to Walter on 1st June, 1840:—
“My dearest Walter,
“. . . It is now fixed that I am to go to London on Thursday next. When I walked round the garden with dearest papa and Watson last evening which was a very beautiful one, and the birds were singing, I thought how often I should wish to be there! but still, with dearest Uncle Stuckey and all the glories of the Parks, I trust I shall do very well.”
Walter’s mother keenly relished these visits and kept up a lively intercourse by letter with Walter and her husband during his absence from home.
“Having just informed your dearest Papa of my safe arrival here, my dearest Walter, I thought I should like to tell you, and to beg you to write.
“Uncle Stuckey looking well and cheerful, but calling himself ‘very ill’ and saying he must go out of town, so hopes I am not going to stay long.
“Eliza (Mr. Vincent Stuckey’s daughter) was close to the Duke of Wellington the other evening at the concert of Ancient Music, and alack! thought he was looking very old and shaky. He seemed very attentive to his daughter-in-law, the Marchioness of Druro , who is beautiful. I left husband in the midst of paint and bustle. He talks now of coming up next week (which all hope he will do) and choosing furniture, and then leaving me here to purchase it—and then perhaps I may come home by way of Bristol, and call for you. Just going into Town to buy a new bonnet! I hope you are longing for the holidays, to be with your dear Papa and ever fond mother,
“Heaven bless you! I do not like being farther away!”
In February, 1841, Walter writes:—
“I beg leave to remind you that next month I am coming home. And that next month is nearly come. I do long to be with you all again; and I picture you all to myself, as I am sitting in the long evening all alone: Watty doing his sums, and Papa endeavouring in vain to instil into him some small glimmering of what he is about, and ‘somebody’ (query who!) asleep sound as possible in the armchair, although my heart smites me to talk of sleeping, since I fell asleep in the most curious way last night over my books, and slept ever so long, and I had not done anything particular in the day time either. I only succeeded at last in waking myself up by reading some of Rogers’ ‘Pleasures of Memory’; and here is a beautiful simile I have hopped on; something to say poetry, though no disrespect either to your poeticulisings or mine. Speaking of memory he says:—
Mr. Bagehot, keenly interested in politics, carefully watched the Free-Trade movement from its beginning, and writes:—
“8th May, 1841.
“Sir Robert Peel’s name reminds me of the political (and more especially as connected with politics) the commercial and financial crisis to which we have arrived. Lord John Russell gave notice a week since that the Government had come to a united determination to recommend a revision of our commercial code, with a view of adopting a course free from prohibitary duties in order that our revenue (which now not equal to our expenditure) may be increased, by the increased consumption of taxed articles, to be rendered cheap by the plans proposed, and that commerce and manufactures being freed from monopolies may revive and extend—and the Corn Laws, Sugar Duties, and Timber Duties, the three great hindrances to a liberal course, are to be immediately brought under discussion. Indeed the sugar duties were to be the subject of debate last night. I expect the ministry will be defeated by the all-powerful interests who are opposed to them, and they will no doubt dissolve Parliament on the question that the consumers who are to be benefited, may give them support enough if they can. I fear they may, and will be unable to carry, even after an election, their enlightened views, but I rejoice that the time is come for beginning an agitation on this, the most important subject of the time, and as we have the many on our side, and the truth, as I firmly believe also, I will not fear that with time we shall want success.”
“My dearest Papa,
“I have just received your long and most interesting letter, and hasten to answer it. The interest on the important question now before the House of Commons has even reached us boys, who are certainly no politicians generally. Mr. Booth stoutly defends the existing Corn Laws, and of course opposes the Ministry most virulently. Somerton, Smith, and myself have had some discussions with him, and though, of course, he had the best of the argument, he having studied the question which we had not, we were by no means convinced. There is, too, at the College, a boy, or rather youth—for he is nineteen—of the name of Pile, the son of a West India planter, who feels very strongly against the sugar bills, very reasonably, I think, as it will materially lessen his father’s property, which is extensive. It has been quite a joke against Pile to uphold the sugar bill, as he gets very angry, or in College phrase ‘brittle’. He has enough of the planter in him, too, not to give the abolition of slavery unqualified approbation; though he owns it to be a desirable measure, he says: ‘Generally it has not worked well; it has increased begging in a good degree,’ etc., and always winds up with saying that ‘the twenty millions we paid them was by no means an equivalent to the planters for slave labour’.”
In answer Mr. Bagehot writes:—
“22nd May, 1841.
“I daresay the excitement of the political world, although it had reached the college, does not interfere with or disturb you much; perhaps to be out of the way of a daily newspaper is no bad thing just now for those who have occupations which require their best attention.
“The Ministers, you no doubt know, were beaten on the Sugar Duties by thirty-six, and have given notice that they now mean to take a Debate and Division on the Corn Laws, before they appeal to the Country.
“The election will probably be a very exciting one in large towns, especially in the manufacturing districts, and altogether the crisis is a serious one. I am not sorry that it is come, for without this, and perhaps others still more serious, the House of Commons, and above all the House of Lords will not willingly vote a reduction of rents. I do not know what may be the turn which things may take in Bristol, but be careful, my dear, to have nothing to do with it, beyond the quiet expression of your feelings and opinions. Partisanship should be carefully avoided by all who have not had time or experience for forming a sound judgment, for, if otherwise, we are often bound by class to opinions which, if fairly examined, would be acknowledged to be full of prejudice; but which cannot be so tested for fear of disrepute in deserting your party. What makes Mr. Booth (Master of the College) a Corn-Law advocate? I hope he has an old rich Uncle with many fine acres, all of which are to be his!”
Mrs. Bagehot was at this time with her brother in London. She writes:—
“Well! my Beloved, I went to the ancient concert and had a most delightful evening in sight and sound. We were close to the Directors’ box and the only disappointment I had was (for the Queen, we knew, was not to be there) that we were behind the Duke of Wellington, and that he never turned round, and alas! looks quite, quite old and tottery—and decrepit. I still hope the mind beams on, but the body is certainly going the way of all flesh. I wanted to see his front face and the expression of his eye, but that I could not do. In the box were the Duke of Cambridge, his daughter the Princess Augusta—not handsome even now in her bloom, the beautiful Lady Wilton, Lord and Lady Burghesh, Lord Howe and his sister Lady Susa, Lady Augusta Somerset and some other ladies that we did not know. Lord Ellenborough and various other stars glittering about—and latish in the evening there was a little bustle, and in came the star of stars with his suite, Prince Albert, who is very, very handsome, and talked and chatted with all around in a very affable manner.”
Before the Christmas holidays in 1841, Walter writes:—
“In addition to the work I told you of before, I have to write an ‘Essay on the comparative advantages of the Study of Ancient and Modern Languages’. Not a very promising subject I am afraid, but I will do my best. It is quite voluntary doing it, and I should not wonder if I were the only one who does it; however, the practice in composition is what I look to.”
During the Christmas holidays, 1841-42, Walter writes to his friend Fry the following:—
“What could induce you to think I wanted Barker’s Latin Dictionary; if you will accept the brute, I can only say you are most welcome to it.
“Your doubt about the old question is easily answered; there is nothing to prevent the principle of Young’s solution answering: if you pare while the weight is suspended, it will break at the point at which you begin; if you take the body away, while you pare, Professor Young’s solution remains in statu quo. By the bye, I have written to Young, to thank him for his prompt attention to our question. My governor said it was the respectable thing to do. Could you send me Young’s letter, as my governor wishes to see it; it shall be returned promptly. Have you commenced working yet? I am over head and ears in Plato’s Apology of Socrates, and Bourdon’s Application de L’Algebre a la Geometrie. The French reminds me to ask how Chalon is (Heaven only knows how to spell the name); if he is convalescent, remember me to him, and if you like, you need not say it was from me, tell him to wash his hands. I have heard from Moline; he had not received my letter, and when he wrote that (6th January, 1842) had not received a word from England. He writes in good spirits and says he likes his work pretty well, when it is not standing up in water. He could not stand in very deep water, that’s certain. Is Booth gone to Dublin? Compliments to your brother, if your Quaker principles do not proscribe that usage of society.
“Believe me (I had a mind to put respected friend but I shan’t),
“Yours &c. &c. &c,
“I hope you can decipher this scrawl.”
Sir Edward Fry writes:—
“Whilst Bagehot and I were pupils at Dr. Booth’s School, we discussed certain problems of a physical character. One which interested us much we stated in the following terms:—
“ ‘Suppose a spherical or cylindrical body suspended by a rigid and unextensible thread or bar in a vacuum, and friction (if any) being left out and that the bar increased in strength as it approached the top in proportion to the increase of the bar below, or, which of course is exactly the same thing, that the thread or bar possessed strength but not weight, and suppose the weight of the spherical or cylindrical body was such as necessarily to break the bar or thread: where would it break and wherefore?’ We were unable to solve the problem and agreed to write to two eminent mathematicians, one of whom was Professor Young of Belfast, and who replied to Bagehot as follows:—
“ ‘The rod in your question will yield to the weight straining it at its place of junction therewith. The reason is that time is occupied in communicating the stress from the lower to the upper section of the rod. As by hypothesis the weight must break the rod, the break will take place where the full effect of the weight is first felt, viz. at the bottom; the weight when thus detached can therefore carry with it a mere lamina of the rod.
“ ‘I am, Sir,