Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/619

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of the "Principles" came out, and immediately achieved a marked success. No sooner was his hook published, than he was off to the Pyrenees, and dashing down in his impetuous way into Catalonia. Here he mixes up in his letters the volcanoes of Olot and the salt mines of Cardona with much amusing chat about the peninsularity of the Spaniards and the odd people he met en route. On his way back through France, he comes across the tail-end of the Revolution of 1830. At Perpignan he sees the cross removed from the cathedral, and hears a bystander indulge in the exquisitely French reflection: "Chacun a son tour; le bon Dieu a eu le sien." Next year he is off to Germany, inspecting the volcanic region of the Eifel. About the same time he accepts the professorship of Geology in King's College, offered him by three bishops, who knew not what they did; for Conybeare vouched for his orthodoxy. Even then Conybeare must have been satisfied with very little. Lyell did not keep the chair, however, as it interfered with his schemes of traveling and original research. So he returned immediately to his tours, much to the ultimate advantage of science, and no doubt to the great satisfaction of the hesitating episcopal triumvirate.

During all these bachelor years Lyell was daily mixing with the most cultivated society of the time. In every letter half a dozen well known names catch the eye at once. On one page, he is dining at Craig Crook Castle with Francis Jeffrey, "a great treat," and meeting "Mr. Maculloch, who gave the celebrated lectures on political economy in town last summer, which I attended"; on another, he is breakfasting at Lockhart's with Sir Walter Scott, "a far more genteel-looking man than Phillips has represented him in his portrait"; and on a third, he is at Cambridge, playing whist with Copley, Master of the Rolls, afterward Lord Lyndhurst, and chronicling only "a stiff bow" from highly-aristocratic young Lord Palmerston, who must then have been strangely different from his later easy-going self. Mrs. Somerville was always a close friend, and he even chaperones her to a Sunday evening "At Home" at Sir George Phillips's, where they meet Yankee novelist Cooper, politico-economical Mrs. Marcet, ethical Mackintosh, poet Rogers, Benthamite Dumont, Conversation Sharp, Sir Walter himself, and a dozen other assorted notabilities. Sir John Herschel, too, was an equally early ally, to whom many of the letters are addressed. Lyell is very catholic. He goes to hear Paganini, not enthusiastically; and then he goes to kirk to hear Chalmers, and retains enough of the Scotchman about him to characterize the sermon as "a very long discourse, but admirable." This catholicity comes out in far stronger relief in his letters than even in his published works, which stick comparatively close to the matter in hand. One sees it over and over again in such little touches as his first notion that he might write the "Principles" as conversations on geology, in the form of "a dialogue like Berkeley's 'Alciphron,' between equals." How many geologists of