Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/172

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
162
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
"I went to Cambridge early in the year 1828, and soon became acquainted, through some of my brother entomologists, with Prof. Henslow, for all who cared for any branch of natural history were equally encouraged by him. Nothing could be more simple, cordial, and unpretending, than the encouragement which ho afforded to all young naturalists. I soon became intimate with him, for he had a remarkable power of making the young feel completely at ease with him; though we were all awe-struck with the amount of his knowledge. Before I saw him, I heard one young man sum up his attainments by simply saying that he knew every thing. When I reflect how immediately we felt at perfect ease with a man older and in every way so immensely our superior, I think it was as much owing to the transparent sincerity of his character, as to his kindness of heart; and, perhaps, even still more to a highly-remarkable absence in him of all self-consciousness. One perceived at once that he never thought of his own varied knowledge or clear intellect, but solely on the subject in hand. Another charm, which must have struck every one, was that his manner to old and distinguished persons and to the youngest student was exactly the same: to all he showed the same winning courtesy. He would receive with interest the most trifling observation in any branch of natural history; and, however absurd a blunder one might make, he pointed it out so clearly and kindly, that one left him no way disheartened, but only determined to be more accurate the next time. In short, no man could be better formed to win the entire confidence of the young, and to encourage them in their pursuits.

"His lectures on botany were universally popular, and as clear as daylight. So popular were they, that several of the older members of the university attended successive courses. Once every week he kept open house in the evening, and all who had cared for natural history attended these parties, which, by thus favoring intercommunication, did the same good in Cambridge, in a very pleasant manner, as the scientific societies do in London. At these parties many of the most distinguished members of the university occasionally attended; and, when only a few were present, I have listened to the great men of those days, conversing on all sorts of subjects, with the most varied and brilliant powers. This was no small advantage to some of the younger men, as it stimulated their mental activity and ambition. Two or three times in each session he took excursions with his botanical class; either a long walk to the habitat of some rare plant, or in a barge down the river to the fens, or in coaches to some more distant place, as to Gamlingay, to see the wild-lily of the valley, and to catch on the heath the rare natter-jack. These excursions have left a delightful impression on my mind. He was, on such occasions, in as good spirits as a boy, and laughed as heartily as a boy at the misadventures of those who chased the splendid swallow-tail butterflies across the broken and treacherous fens. He used to pause every now and then, and lecture on some plant or other object; and something he could tell us on every insect, shell, or fossil collected, for he had attended to every branch of natural history. After our day's work we used to dine at some inn or house, and most jovial we then were. I believe all who joined these excursions will agree with me that they have left an enduring impression of delight on our minds.

"As time passed on at Cambridge, I became very intimate with Prof. Henslow, and his kindness was unbounded. He continually asked me to his house, and allowed me to accompany him in his walks. He talked on all subjects, including his deep sense of religion, and was entirely open. I owe more than I can express to this excellent man. His kindness was steady. When Captain