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old residence and from that time lived alone. In 1832, at the age
of 66, he ascended Helvellyn as firmly as ever, took the ladies an excursion in Cumberland to see his old friends, playfully introducing the two elder Miss Johns as his daughters, and their cousins, the younger ladies, as his granddaughters. But we cannot follow him on the hills; of them he never seems to have wearied, nor did he ever weary of his old friends there, nor of the study which first made him look on the peculiar aspects of nature at that spot. The place seemed to be a memory both for his intellect and his heart, and his love for the district shows how permanent in him were the feelings of both.
It was not until 1837 that Dalton felt in any decided manner the progress of age, although long before that time his energy and originality had diminished. Properly speaking he had, like many other gifted persons, only one period of great originality, occurring immediately at the conclusion of his education, so to speak. At that period it frequently happens that the mind makes choice of the materials with which it will work, and has some more or less distinct idea of the conclusion, whilst the rest of the life is directed to its elucidation or expansion.
On April 18th, 1837, he was disabled for a while by paralysis, and although he wrote some memoirs after this period he never entirely recovered. He fell suddenly to the floor after his usual morning's labor of recording the state of the barometer and thermometer. His friend Peter Clare was his constant companion, and to the end of his life acted both as secretary and friend, with an amount of reverence and affection that is seldom found. He noted down the observations when Dalton was ill, and took down at his request all the minute particulars connected with his illness and his medicines; for every illness and every dose was like a chemical experiment with Dalton.
In six weeks he had recovered, but on February 15th, 1838, he was again attacked, and was left very much enfeebled. His habits were not changed ; idleness did not follow on weakness; he still made his experiment, but took, as he said, four times longer to perform it; still saw his friends, and kept up the average of his cheerfulness, although the sad feeling that his frame had decayed, was not absent from his mind. Of this he gave little indication, but when the conversation happened once to turn upon an eminent scientific man whom he admired, and had seen in France, he said, “Ah! he was a wreck then as I am now."
Mr. Ransome, once his pupil, and latterly his friend and medical attendant, informs us that from 1838 he required constant attendance, although he had no other attack until near his death. During the 1843-4 session of the Literary and Philosophical Society, he attended occasionally, where since 1817 he had been president. He had then lost his strength so much, that to walk across the two intervening streets to his own house in Faulkner-street, leaning on the arm of Mr. Clare, was a great exertion. His speech was feeble and inarticulate, so that he did not attempt to address the society. On May 20th, 1844, another slight fit occurred. Still we find him at his work, feebly, but regularly putting down his metereological observations. His earliest thoughts were on science, and they endured to the latest period of his life. On July 26th his servant observed that his hand was unusually tremulous, but, as Dr. Wilson observes, “there was the same care and corrective watchfulness manifested in the last stroke
He had written down “ little rain this,” and observing after a while that he had left out “day,” he returned to complete it. On the morning of the 27th, about six o'clock, his attendant left him for a little, enforcing on him the propriety of not moving until his return. His feeble limbs had not even then got reconciled to perfect helplessness; he seems to
of his pen.
have made an attempt to rise, but fell from the bed, and was found with his head on the floor, perfectly lifeless.
Mr. Harland, in the Manchester Guardian of the period, gives a copy of the last three lines he wrote: they will serve as an illustration of his method.
He had ceased for some months to make observations on the amount of rain and evaporation. Mr. Harland reckons his total observations at 200,000.
His life ended with science, and these few of his observations are therefore not out of place even when recording that solemn moment. So calm had been his life, that it is not surprising that in death his countenance should show a “ beautiful repose," as the same writer observed in a memoir fitted for a more permanent place than a newspaper.
Many would like to know something more of Dalton's religious faith, and would expect to learn from his concluding words the hope and direction of his spirit, as if from its position at that moment they were able to calculate the angle of its divergence from earth. But that spirit had ceased to find utterance for itself, and we are compelled to look at the more solid points of a laborious lifetime. Scientific men are often far from orthodox Christianity, although sometimes living like saints, lives of purity, charity, devotion, and deep reverence. Dalton“ did justly," he “loved mercy,” he “walked humbly," he remembered carefully, as his will especially shews, the mercy due to the fatherless and widows,” and all our accounts speak of him as one to all appearance in an unusual degree "unspotted from the world.” His profession was according to the spiritual, but inexpressive forms of the Society of Friends.
As is usually the case on the death of an eminent man, the first proof is furnished to many persons that he was once alive. It was suddenly known that a man of eminence had left us, and the greatest desire was shown to do his memory justice. Although the body of Friends to whom he belonged objected, the funeral was given up to be conducted by the authorities of the town. The remains, in a lead coffin enclosed in a solid oak one, were placed in the Town Hall, and for some days a constant flow of silent and gazing spectators passed through the building. Some objected to this form ; but it is not easy to say what in such cases should be done. True honor can be given only by the mind and by the heart; but to honor any man publicly it is not enough that we feel it; it must be expressed. This was a solemn method of impressing it on all the forty thousand visitors, as well as on all the town and neighbourhood, who were aware of what was going on, and one probably which would leave a greater impression than a speech over the grave, heard only by a few. True, there was the explanation of his greatness wanted, but that can be given only to a few at a time, and in place of that there was the long continuation of the ceremony which, united with a full account of Dalton's life given in the Manchester Guardian, impressed the fact on many and enabled everyone to know why this man was so peculiarly selected for honour.
The funeral took place on the 12th of August. The train was nearly a mile in length, including most of the public bodies of the town, numerous private friends, and still more admirers on foot or in carriages. The town was occupied for a time with the burial of Dalton; the business ceased; the streets were thronged with numberless spectators; and the police of Manchester attended with a badge of mourning. The burial took place in the Ardwick Cemetery, on the south-east
side of the city. The grave is enclosed by a strong rail, enclosing a space about twenty feet square, and contains a very plain and simple, but large, massive, and imposing covering of polished red granite, with the inscription in large letters, John Dalton, and in smaller letters the date of his birth and death.
This tombstone, consisting of a solid granite pediment and overhanging slab, was not made till some years after Dalton's death, when a subscription was raised, amounting to £5,312, in order to carry out some of his original intentions, as well as to connect his name with some public benefaction, as a most fitting memorial. Dalton had originally set aside two thousand pounds for a “professorship of chemistry at Oxford, for the advancement of that science by lectures, in which the atomic theory as propounded by me, together with the subsequent discoveries and elucidations thereof, shall be introduced and explained.” The desire to repair the losses sustained by Mr. Johns; to show a mark of respect and gratitude to Mr. Peter Clare, who had been so affectionate as a friend; and to Mr. Neild, at whose table he had been welcomed regularly for many years, seems to have caused him to alter his will, and to attend rather to persons than to institutions.
His will included the names of many who were near and dear to him and needed assistance.
With great respect for the affection shown in Dalton's will to his friends and relatives, the sum mentioned was subscribed to carry out in part his original intention. Since his death Owens College had been founded in Manchester. For this there have been provided two Dalton chemical scholarships, of fifty pounds for two years; two Dalton mathematical scholarships, of fifty pounds, also continuing two years ; Dalton prizes from ten to twenty-five pounds, and a Dalton natural history prize of fifteen pounds.* A thousand pounds of the
* As advertised for 1856.