Page:Notes by the Way.djvu/26

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Knight's father wished that on leaving school he should remain with him and learn the cloth trade. For a time he acceded to this, although it was distasteful to him. His health was far from good, and was a cause of much anxiety for many years, and when he first came to London it was anticipated that his life would be but short. His health being so precarious, his father allowed him much freedom, and he devoted all the time he could to acquiring knowledge. This he did to a marvellous extent, and those who knew him in after life, with his wide range of learning, would never imagine that he received only a few years' schooling as a boy.

The Counter ReformationWhen about eighteen, Knight, along with other bright young fellows, including the present Poet Laureate, and notably Edward Hewitt, founded a Mechanics' Institute in Leeds. This was financially aided by a fine old member of the Society of Friends, Mr. Pease, a member of the Pease family of Darlington. The young men delivered lectures at the Institute. "My brother," writes Mr. Knight, "gave one on 'The Counter Reformation,' and much amusement was caused by the shopkeepers and their customers flocking to it, expecting to hear of shortened shop hours and improvements in the construction of their shop counters."

Hewitt gave a scientific lecture with illustrations, and borrowed apparatus from the Leeds Philosophical Hall. Mr. Pease was in the chair. Hewitt was in the act of emptying the air-pump when it exploded with a terrific report, and Mr. Pease was discovered flat on his back on the floor. Fortunately he was unhurt, but he naturally took the precaution not to occupy the chair again, and seated himself far away from the table where the lecturer was performing his experiments.


'The Fairies of English Poetry.'Among lectures delivered by Knight at this time was one on 'The Fairies of English Poetry,' before the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, of which he was the President, on the 7th of April, 1854. The original MS. of this, beautifully written, was purchased by his nephew Mr. A. Langford Knight, who has kindly lent it to me. From beginning to end it shows the patient care and research which characterized all Knight's work. It opens thus:—

"That man's mind is essentially superstitious is the natural and inevitable result of the circumstances in which he finds himself placed. . . . He knows not who or what he is, has been, or shall be, whence comes he, and where he goes. . . . These are questions which must always be recurring to his mind, and with which all his boasted science and 'nice' philosophy will be unable to grapple. Our religion itself, while it informs him of all that is necessary to fit him