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Watt in Old Age




ATT gracefully glided into old age. This is the great test of success in life. To every stage a laurel, but to happy old age the crown. It was different with his friend Boulton, who continued to frequent the works and busy himself in affairs much as before, altho approaching his eightieth year. Watt could still occupy himself in his garret, where his "mind to him a Kingdom was," upon the scientific pursuits which charmed him. He revisited Paris in 1802 and renewed acquaintances with his old friends, with whom he spent five weeks. He frequently treated himself to tours throughout England, Scotland and Wales. In the latter country, he purchased a property which attracted him by its beauties, and which he greatly improved. It became at a later date, under his son, quite an extensive estate, much diversified, and not lacking altogether the stern grandeur of his native Scotland. He planted trees and took intense delight in his garden, being very fond of flowers. The farmhouse gave him a comfortable home upon his visits. The fine woods which now richly clothe the valley and agreeably

diversify the river and mountain scenery were chiefly planted under his superintendence, many by his own hand. In short, the blood in his veins, the lessons of his childhood that made him a "child of the mist," happy in roaming among the hills, reasserted their power in old age as the Celtic element powerfully does. He turned more and more to nature.

"That never yet betrayed the heart that loved her—" We see him strolling through his woods, and imagine him crooning to himself from that marvellous memory that forgot no gem:

For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes

The still, sad music of humanity,

Nor harsh, nor grating, though of ample power

To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still

A lover of the meadows and the woods,

And mountains; and of all that we behold

From this green earth.

Twice Watt was requested to undertake the honor

of the shrievalty; in 1803 that of Staffordshire, and in

1816 that of Radnorshire, both of which were positively declined.

He finally found it necessary to declare that he was not a member of the Church of England, but of the Presbyterian church of Scotland, a reason which in that day was conclusive.

In 1816, he was in his eighty-first year, and no difficulty seems then to have been found for excusing him, for it seems the assumption of the duties was compulsory. It was "the voice of age resistless in its feebleness."

The day had come when Watt awakened to one of the saddest of all truths, that his friends were one by one rapidly passing away, the circle ever narrowing, the few whose places never could be filled becoming fewer, he in the centre left more and more alone. Nothing grieved Watt so much as this. In 1794 his partner, Roebuck, fell; in 1799, his inseparable friend, and supporter in his hour of need, Dr. Black, and also Withering of the Lunar Society; and in 1802 Darwin "of the "silver song," one of his earliest English friends. In 1804, his brilliant son Gregory died, a terrible shock. In 1805, his first Glasgow College intimate, Robison; Dr. Beddoes in 1808; Boulton, his partner, in 1809; Dr. Wilson in 1811; De Luc in 1817. Many other friends of less distinction fell in these years who were not less dear to him. He says, "by one friend's withdrawing "after another," he felt himself "in danger of standing "alone among strangers, the son of later times."

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