Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

diction, lend additional attractions to the knowledge so conveyed. To the latter characteristics of his style, no translation can do justice; and the difficulty or impossibility of transferring from the French to the English language those graces

of idiom and expression, in which the former so much abounds, must serve as the excuse for imperfections, which in the following pages will doubtless be observed.

To some, it may appear, that M. Arago, in his history of the early improvers of the Steam Engine, has dwelt too much on the names of De Caus and Papin. Perhaps he may in return consider, that our notes on those who have in this country always been looked upon as the real originators of the great machine, have entered into further details than were required to establish their claims and set forth their merits. But as, on the one hand, the patriotic ardour for which M. Arago is celebrated, has been well employed in asserting the reputation which his country may deserve; so, on the other, we feel quite assured, that his liberality of sentiment, and desire of rendering impartial justice to all, will easily reconcile him to the nationality which he may possibly think he discerns on our part.

In the Appendix to this translation, the Historical Note by Lord Brougham on the discovery of the composition of water, is followed by the eloquent delineation of the Character of Mr. Watt by Lord Jeffrey ; to which those who had known Mr. Watt longest and best, have concurred in ascribing the merit of an unrivalled fidelity.

Of the speeches delivered at the meeting at which the statue in Westminster Abbey was voted, it was at first proposed only to have given some extracts. But it was found that the effect of those speeches must have been infinitely injured, by their being at all curtailed ; and as they do the highest honour not only to the memory of Mr. Watt, and the talents and feelings of the distinguished speakers, but also to the Nation whose gratitude they were intended to express, the Report of the Committee has been reprinted without abridgement or alteration.

The able Dissertation on Machinery considered in relation to the welfare of the working-classes, formed originally a part of the body of the Eloge; and was inserted immediately after that chapter which treats of the History of the Steam-Engine. But, as its introduction there seemed somewhat to interfere with the continuity of the history of Mr. Watt’s life and inventions, it has now been, perhaps more appropriately, placed after the other parts of this volume in which those are more immediately noticed.

For much of the information contained in the Additional Notes, the Translator has to thank the goodness, (which M. Arago might well call unwearied), of his friend the present Mr. James Watt; who has always viewed as a sacred trust the guardianship of that name which he inherits, and which is now perpetuated, in every quarter of the world, by benefits conferred on mankind, such as lead to the greatest and most imperishable renown.

EDINBURGH, 12th November 1839.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

HISTORICAL ELOGE, &c.

66

AFTER perusing the long catalogue of battles, of murders, of pestilences, of famines, of catastrophes of every kind, which the annals of I know not what country presented, a philosopher exclaimed,

Happy is the nation whose history is tiresome!” Why must we add, at least in a literary point of view, “ Unfortunate is the man on whom devolves the duty of narrating the history of a happy people!”

If the philosopher's exclamation loses nothing of its force when applied to simple individuals, its counterpart expresses, with equal truth, the situation of some biographers.

Such were the thoughts which occurred to me, while I was studying the life of James Watt, and collecting the kind communications of the relations, friends, and associates, of that illustrious mechanician. That life, quite patriarchal, devoted to labour, to study, to meditation, will present us with none of those exciting events, of which

A

« AnteriorContinuar »