Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/344

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GENTLEMEN: It has devolved upon me this year to deliver, in accordance with prescribed custom, the introductory lecture to the course of systematic instruction upon which you are about to enter. At the outset I am free to confess that I have been not a little perplexed and troubled about what I ought most fitly to say; like many of my predecessors in the office, I have found the choice of subject beset with difficulties, and I have small hope that I can say anything to redeem the usual barrenness of the occasion. It is just twenty-five years since I, sitting where one of you now sits, listened to my first introductory lecture from the lips—mute, alas! now forever—of one whose pure and gentle nature attracted in no common measure the esteem, the respect, and the affection, of all who knew him. I mean the late Dr. Parkes. It is an extraordinary, almost an unparalleled, thing to say of any man, that no one who heard mention made of his name ever heard an ill word said of him; but I believe that this was strictly true of Parkes. His life, lovely and of good report throughout, was indeed a practical refutation of the saying, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you." If I could sketch in striking outline the features of his character, and set forth justly the pure course of his life—showing with what patient industry and entire sincerity of insight he worked in scientific inquiries, how upright he was in all his ways, and how kindly considerate to others: how he lived, and how, his work faithfully done, he died—I should probably give you an inspiring and most useful introductory lecture; for I should present to you a noble example, the labor to imitate which would be an excellent scientific and moral training. But that has been done with more or less completeness by various persons, though not always, perhaps, with the discrimination which one would wish to see shown in the appreciation of such a character. It is a very amiable wish to say everything good of a man when he is silent forever, and the vocabulary of flattering words is apt to be exhausted in the endeavor to gratify this feeling, the effect sometimes being that the actual features of the character are blurred, and something which is intended to be very perfect, but which is very unreal, is produced. It seems to me that the distinguishing characteristic of Parkes, that by which mainly he was what he was, was not so much originality or height of intellect (in this others have equaled or surpassed him) as the height of his moral stature—in this

  1. Introductory lecture delivered at University College, London, October 2, 1876.