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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/657

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PROFESSOR TYNDALL.

mathematics), unless the links could be experimentally or observationally tested at no long intervals, was simply another manifestation of the same fundamental quality. I was not overburdened with love for such dialectic festoon-work myself, but I owe not a little to my friend for helping to abolish as much as remained.

Once again, this quality of active veracity, the striving after knowledge as apart from hearsay, lay at the root of Tyndall's very remarkable powers of exposition, and of his wealth of experimental illustration. Hence, I take it, arose the guarded precision of the substance of a lecture or essay, which was often poetically rich, sometimes even exuberant, in form. In Sir Humphry Davy and Mr. Faraday the Royal Institution had possessed two unsurpassed models of the profound, yet popular, expositor of science. Davy was before my time, but I have often had the delight of listening to Faraday. An ineradicable tendency to think of something else makes me an excellent test-object for oratory; and he was one of the few orators whom I have heard to whom I could not choose but listen. It was no mean ordeal, therefore, to which Tyndall was subjected when he was asked to give a "Friday evening" in 1852; but he captured his hearers so completely that his appointment to the Fullerian Professoriate of Physics, with the use of a laboratory such as he needed for the original work he loved, soon followed. And for more than thirty years he held his own. From first to last, the announcement of a Friday evening by him meant a crammed theater.

Sheridan's reply to the lady who told him that his writings were such charmingly easy reading—"Easy reading, madam, is damned hard writing"—has never got into the general mind; and very few of the thousands of delighted listeners, I imagine, ever had an inkling of what these facile discourses cost the lecturer. I used to suffer rather badly from "lecture fever" myself; but I never met with anyone to whom an impending discourse was' the occasion of so much mental and physical disturbance as it was to Tyndall. He was quite incapable of persuading himself, or of being persuaded by others, that, after all, a relative failure, now and then, was of no great consequence; indeed, from the point of view of pure art, might be desirable. Whatever he gave, it must be the best he had, whether it were a lecture or a dinner. Now that sort of housekeeping costs. But some think with Shakespeare:

"The painful warrior, famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories, once foiled,
Is from the book of honor razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toiled."

And Tyndall was not minded to be forgot; at any rate, for that reason.