Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/654

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

". . . mir so oft
In Noth and Trübsal beigestanden,"[1]

to whom, indeed, I have found the old shikaree's definition of a friend, as "a man with whom you can go tiger-hunting," strictly applicable, almost the earliest was John Tyndall.

My elder by some five years, Tyndall's very marked and vigorous personality must have long taken its final set when we fore-gathered in 1851. The dyer's hand is subdued to that it works in; and, it may be, that much occupation with types of structure, elsewhere, is responsible for a habit of classifying men to which I was, and am, given. But I found my new friend a difficult subject—incertæ sedis, as the naturalists say; in other words, hard to get into any of my pigeon-holes. Before one knew him well, it seemed possible to give an exhaustive definition of him in a string of epigrammatic antitheses, such as those in which the older historians delight to sum up the character of a king or leading statesman. Impulsive vehemence was associated with a singular power of self-control and a deep-seated reserve, not easily penetrated. Free-handed generosity lay side by side with much tenacity of insistence on any right, small or great; intense selfrespect and a somewhat stern independence, with a sympathetic geniality of manner, especially toward children, with whom Tyndall was always a great favorite. Flights of imaginative rhetoric, which amused (and sometimes amazed) more phlegmatic people, proceeded from a singularly clear and hard-headed reasoner, overscrupulous, if that may be, about keeping within the strictest limits of logical demonstration; and sincere to the core. A bright and even playful companion, Tyndall had little of that quick appreciation of the humorous side of things in general, and of one's self in particular, which is as oil to the waves of life, and is a chief component of the worthier kind of tact; indeed, the best reward of the utterer of a small witticism, or play upon words, in his presence, was the blank, if benevolent, perplexity with which he received it. And I suppose that the character-sketch would be incomplete, without an explanation of its peculiarities by a reference to the mixture of two sets of hereditary tendencies, the one eminently Hibernian, the other derived from the stock of the English Bible translator and Reformer.

To those who have been privileged to become intimate with Tyndall, however, sketch and explanation will seem alike inadequate. These superficial characteristics disappeared from view, as the powerful faculties and the high purposes of the mind, on the surface of which they played, revealed themselves. And to

  1. . . . have so often stood by me
    In trouble and adversity.