end of certain periods, these were opened, in the sence of the parties interested, the quantity of work ascertained, and the savings calculated; onethird of which was paid to the inventors; while the remaining two-thirds were clear gain to the proprietors. Upon a single mine in Cornwall, the annual revenue claimed by Mess. Boulton and Watt, upon three engines, was 2400l. consequently the saving to the proprietors of that mine were but little short of 5000l. per annum; while, to the country at large, there was a saving of fuel equal in value to more than 7000l. a-year.

It has been estimated by those who have gone into the detail of the business, and who have made their calculations on sure principles, that steam-engines are to the nation at large a saving of 75,000l. per day. An invention so important, combining so many advantages, and attended with so much individual and national profit, is of itself sufficient to immortalize the genius and superior talents of him who has brought it to perfection. But the mind of Watt has shewn itself capable of a thousand other inventions, which, though of less utility, are not without their advantages. The time we have taken in describing his grand work, will prevent us from following him in others of inferior moment, yet we cannot wholly pass over his copying-machines, which are gradually coming into general use. By the help of one of these, what has taken a person several hours to write, may be copied in a few seconds; the advantage of these to the merchant and man of business is readily estimated,


estimated; to the man of literature, who commits the labour of years to the hands of the printer, it is not less desirable that he should retain a copy of his work, in case of accidents, which sometimes occur by the carelessness of those persons through whose hands such manuscripts are obliged to pass.

In the earlier part of Mr. Watt's life, in conjunction with Dr. Black, he made a vast variety of experiments on latent heat; was long and intimately acquainted with Dr. Priestly, Dr. Darwin, and M. de Luc. He is said not to be a profound mathematician, and seldom extends his speculations to the more abstruse parts of that science. His genius laye in invention, in a general knowledge of mechanics and geometry; in these he excels not so much by means of long calculations, and intricate experiments, as by a sort of intuitive feeling of what is practicable and what is not so.

Soon after Mr. Watt had settled at Birmingham, he married a second wife, Miss McGregor of Glasgow, a lady of considerable accomplishments, endowed with an excellent understanding, and who unremittingly fulfils the duties of a good mother and a good wife.

The incidents in the life of a man devoted either to literature or mechanics are generally few: absorbed in his favourite pursuits, he has no leisure for entering into those scenes which give variety to memoirs of men of the world: he keeps in the bosom of his family, and emerges not into the busy hum of society. Mr. Watt will long be considered as the be


nefactor of society, rather than as an active member of it. In private life, he is an agreeable, unassuming, and very instructive companion. Like the late Lord Camden, he is excessively attached to the reading of novels; he allows himself a certain time to his meals, and at these times he is rarely without one of those light compositions in his hand or on his table. He is subject to excruciating head-achs, but is pa tient and calm under the greatest pain. He is in the truest and best sense of the term a real philosopher, who has lived less for himself than for the society of which he is a member. By his steam-engine he is a benefactor to the world; it is introduced into all civilized countries; and we regret that we are obliged to say, that thousands are benefited by his labours who are unwilling to acknowledge his merits.

M. Prony, of France, one of the ablest engineers and mathematicians of the age, in his "New Hydraulic Architecture," dedicated a whole quarto volume to the description of Mr. Watt's steamengine, accompanied with engraved views and plans of all its parts, without once mentioning the name of the inventor.

The Perriers of Paris purchased, in the year 1779, an engine of Messrs. Boulton and Watt, in order to supply some parts of that city with water: these gentlemen are repeatedly mentioned in Prony's work, which would lead the reader to suppose that they, instead of our countryman Watt, were the inventors. This, if don designedly, is much beneath the wellearned reputation of M. Prony, who, living within

[blocks in formation]

the space of a mile to that engine, which was purchased at Soho, ought to have made himself so much acquainted with its history, as to have done justice to the genius and talents of the inventor.



THIS gentleman was born in Bath, where his father carried on a very considerable brewery, and was engaged in other extensive concerns; his mother was descended from the Longs, one of the oldest and most respectable families of that city.

He was sent, while very young, to an academy at Coleme, a few miles distant from Bath, then kept by the Rev. Mr. Needham. Young Palmer was much distinguished by his master at this seminary for the quickness of his parts, and by his school-fellows for an enterprizing spirit, as well as a total indifference to pre-eminence in the classes; but from being disposed to kindness, and a great favourite with Mr. Needham, he was generally deputed, when it was thought necessary, to solicit favour, or deprecate punishment; and he generally succeeded in both. He differed, however, from his playmates in regard to his studies, for whenever a new author was put in his hands, he scarcely ever rested till he had obtained a tolerable knowledge of his merits, and would never sit down contented with himself till he could translate the whole with facility; and after that point was atchieved, he would return to a kind of volup


tuous periodical idleness, till it became again absolutely necessary to return to his task, which he would perform with a readiness that again left him to the busy idleness he so much loved, at this period of his boyish days. He had rapidly gone through the principal classics of the school, when his father was prevailed upon, by a clerical relation of the same name, resident in Marlborough, a gentleman universally known and much distinguished in the neighbourhood there, to remove his son to the public. school of that town, there being annexed to it some valuable scholarships and exhibitions introductory to Oxford and Cambridge; and it was presumed this would give him the chance of being preferred to one of these, as well as put him in training for his paternal destination, the church.

Young Palmer, however, had predetermined in favour of the army; and after a stout contention betwixt the sword and the surplice, it was a drawn battle; and he was reluctantly compelled, at scarcely fourteen years of age, to leave school, and, what was still nearer his heart, an excellent pack of hounds, which were kept by Parson Palmer; and, what was worse than all, to submit to the drudgery of mercantile business. Still, however, he repeated his solicitations for a commission in the army, and continued his contempt and neglect of business. This military passion occasioned frequent altercations, and called forth reproach from one of the best, and otherwise most indulgent parents. But there is certainly such a thing as family obstinacy; or, shall we soften


« VorigeDoorgaan »