Varley, Cornelius (DNB00)

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VARLEY, CORNELIUS (1781–1873), watercolour-painter and inventor of optical apparatus, elder brother of William Fleetwood Varley [q. v.] and younger brother of John Varley [q. v.], was born on 21 Nov. 1781. In early life lie went out sketching with his brother John, and after his father's death, when about ten years old, was taken charge of by his uncle Samuel, watchmaker, jeweller, and maker of philosophical instruments. He soon began to make lenses, and invented a composition for polishing them which is still in use. In 1794 his uncle commenced chemical experiments at Hatton House, and founded the Chemical and Philosophical Society, the forerunner of the Royal Institution (founded 1800). Among other works in which Varley assisted were the construction of the first soda-water apparatus and a large electrical machine with a conductor twelve feet long. Varley made a lens one hundredth of an inch in focus, which was at the time regarded as the most perfect in existence, and he was awarded medals by the Society of Arts for communications on tools for making lenses, observations on the microscope, and investigations relating to animal and vegetable life. About 1800 he left his uncle, and returned to art studies with his brother John. They went together to Dr. Monro's [see Monro, Thomas, 1759-1833], and he was introduced by that gentleman to the Earl of Essex and Henry Lascelles (afterwards second Earl of Harewood) [q. v.] In 1801 he accompanied John to Gillingham Hall, Norfolk, and afterwards proceeded to Suffolk. In 1802 and 1803 he went for sketching tours in Wales, and in the latter year commenced to exhibit at the Royal Academy with 'A Wood Scene: a Composition.' In 1804 he went to St. Albans, where, according to his own account, he conceived the idea of the Watercolour Society, of which he was one of the foundation members. He sent to their first exhibition (1805) 'Coloured Sketches and Views' of St. Albans, &c. After the first three years his contributions to the society's exhibitions were constant, but not numerous (they were fifty-nine in all), and were chiefly of a classical character, like the 'Vale of Tempe' and 'Ruins of Troy,' with architecture and groups of figures carefully finished. In 1815 he was appointed treasurer to the society, and he received one of three premiums awarded to its members in 1819. He left the society in 1821, and afterwards sent his principal works, seldom more than one a year, to the Royal Academy, where he exhibited for the last time in 1859. Between 1826 and 1844 he also sent drawings to Suffolk Street. Meanwhile he continued his scientific pursuits with much success. He invented the Graphic telescope, patented on 5 April 1811 (No. 3430), which was used by T. Horner in laying down his great panorama of London for the Coliseum in Regent's Park, and the lever microscope for watching the movements of animalcula. For the latter he received the 'Isis' gold medal of the Society of Arts. He became an active and useful member of this society in 1814. He was also a member of the Royal Institution, where he delivered the fourth Friday lecture in 1826. He was chairman of exhibitors, class 10, at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and received a prize medal for his Graphic telescope more than forty years after it was invented. He contributed a paper on atmospheric electricity to the 'Philosophical Magazine,' and several to the 'Transactions of the Society of Arts' and the 'Journals of the Royal Microscopic Society.' He published a 'Treatise on Optical Drawing Instruments' and 'Etchings of Shipping, Barges, Fishing Boats,' &c. (1809). He lived to be the oldest member of the Society of Arts, and the last survivor of the founders of the Watercolour Society. He enjoyed his faculties to the end, and died at 19 South Grove West, Stoke Newington, on 21 Oct. 1873, in his ninety-second year. In 1821 he married Elizabeth Straker, and had a large family. One of his sons was Cromwell Fleetwood Varley [q. v.]

[James Holmes and John Varley, by Alfred T. Story; Roget's 'Old Watercolour' Soc.; Redgrave's Dict.]

C. M.