Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/612

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intellect and vigor. Charles was the eldest of ten, having two brothers and seven sisters. All were able, but he was the ablest. The firstborn of a wealthy and cultivated family, with ample means and ample leisure, endowed by nature with literary and scientific potentialities, brought up in the stimulating atmosphere of his own home, of Oxford, and of the London literary world, surrounded from his childhood upward by men of science and men of letters, it would have been strange if Charles Lyell had not turned out exactly such a man as we all know him to have been. He was predestined for his work by the inevitable forces of his own constitution and the environing society, and he was admirably fitted beforehand for the work he had to do.

"Unencumbered research," as Mr. Sorby calls it, is, in fact, the key-note of Lyell's history. Like most other of our greatest scientific generalizers, he was brought up in an easy position, which enabled him to devote his life to science alone, without troubling his brain about the often absorbing question of the bread-supply, that wastes the best years of so many lives fit for better things. He came to us from the eighteenth century. Charles Lyell was born at Kinnordy, in Forfarshire, his father's estate, on November 14, 1797. But the real home of his childhood was Bartley Lodge, in the New Forest, which his father leased for twenty-eight years shortly after Charles's birth, though the family often returned for a time to Kinnordy as their summer quarters. The fragment of early autobiography which Lyell wrote years after for his future wife gives us some pleasant glimpses of the boy's life among the big trees and shady avenues of the Hampshire woodland. He felt the charm of nature and the open air from his childhood upward. He knew every clump and every single tree in the park, and to each one he gave a separate name. At Old Sarum, whither he used to go on half-holidays from his school at Salisbury, he loved already to break the flints from the chalk to see which had crystals of chalcedony in the middle, and which had white cores of sparkling quartz. Even then, before he was eleven years old, he had taken to collecting beetles and butterflies, finding out their names from the entomological books in his father's library. This free life in the New Forest must have formed such a preparation for his future work as could have fallen to the lot of very few boys in England; nowhere else, perhaps, in this over-tilled kingdom could he have formed so just an idea of what Nature left to herself is like—though even the New Forest looks but an artificial thing, after all, beside genuine native primeval woodlands. Moreover, he luckily escaped the conventionalizing and stereotyping drill of our public schools; he was never put through one of those dismal mills for crushing out individuality, into which we turn most of our best material, so as to grind it down to the Procrustean measure of Ovidian elegiacs and Æschylean trimeters. He went to three small private schools, first at Ringwood (close to home), then at Salisbury (where