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the lady to whom he (Thomas Watt) was early united in marriage was Miss Agnes Muirhead, a gentlewoman of good understanding and superior endowments, whose excellent management in household affairs would seem to have contributed much to the order of her establishment, as well as to the every-day happiness of a cheerful home. She is described as having been a person above common in many respects, of a fine womanly presence, ladylike in appearance, affecting in domestic arrangements-according to our traditions-what, it would seem was considered for the time, rather a superior style of living. What such a style consisted in, the reader shall have the means of judging for himself. One of the author's informants on such points more than twenty years ago, a venerable lady, then in her eighty-fifth year, was wont to speak of the worthy Bailie's wife with much characteristic interest and animation. As illustrative of what has just been remarked of the internal economy of the family, the old lady related an occasion on which she had spent an evening, when a girl, at Mrs. Watt's house, and remembered expressing with much naïveté to her mother, on returning home, her childish surprise that "Mrs. Watt had two candles lighted on the table!" Among these and other reminiscences of her youth, one venerable informant described James Watt's mother, in her eloquent and expressive Doric, as, "a braw, braw, woman-none now to be seen like her."
There is another account from a neighbor, who also refers to Mrs. Watt as being somewhat of the grand lady, but always so kind, so sweet, so helpful to all her neighbors.
The Watt family for generations steadily improved and developed. A great step upward was made the day Agnes Muirhead was captured. We are liable to forget how little of the original strain of an old family remains in after days. We glance over the record of the Cecils, for instance, to find that the present Marquis
has less than one four-thousandth part of the Cecil blood; a dozen marriages have each reduced it onehalf, and the recent restoration of the family to its pristine greatness in the person of the late Prime Minister, and in his son, the brilliant young Parliamentarian, of whom great things are predicted already, is to be credited equally to the recent infusion into the Cecil family of the entirely new blood of two successive brides, daughters of commoners who made their own way in the world. One was the mother of the late statesman, the other his wife and the mother of his sons. So with the Watt family, of which we have records of three marriages. Our Watt, therefore, had but one-eighth of the original Watt strain; seveneighths being that of the three ladies who married into the family. Upon the entrance of a gentlewoman of Agnes Muirhead's qualities hung important results, for she was a remarkable character with the indefinable air of distinction, was well educated, had a very wise head, a very kind heart and all the sensibility and enthusiasm of the Celt, easily touched to fine issues. She was a Scot of the Scots and a storehouse of border lore, as became a daughter of her house, Muirhead of Lachop.
Here, then, we have existing in the quiet village of Greenock in 1736, unknown of men, all the favorable conditions, the ideal soil, from which might be expected to appear such "variation of species" as contained that
rarest of elements, the divine spark we call genius. In due time the "variation" made its appearance, now known as Watt, the creator of the most potent instrument of mechanical force known to man.
The fond mother having lost several of her children born previously was intensely solicitous in her care of James, who was so delicate that regular attendance at school was impossible. The greater part of his school years he was confined most of the time to his room. This threw him during most of his early years into his mother's company and tender care. Happy chance! What teacher, what companionship, to compare with that of such a mother! She taught him to read most of what he then knew, and, we may be sure, fed him on the poetry and romance upon which she herself had fed, and for which he became noted in after life. He was rated as a backward scholar at school, and his education was considered very much neglected.
Let it not be thought, however, that the lad was not being educated in some very important departments. The young mind was absorbing, though its acquisitions did not count in the school records. Much is revealed of his musings and inward development in the account of a visit which he paid to his grandmother Muirhead in Glasgow, when it was thought that a change would benefit the delicate boy. We read with pleasant surprise that he had to be sent for, at the request of the family, and taken home. He kept the household
so stirred up with his stories, recitations and continual ebullitions, which so fairly entranced his Grannie and Grandpa and the cousins, that the whole household economy was disordered. They lost their sleep, for "Jamie" held them spellbound night after night with his wonderful performances. The shy and contemplative youngster who had tramped among the hills, reciting the stirring ballads of the border, had found an admiring tho astonished audience at last, and had let loose upon them.
To the circle at home he was naturally shy and reserved, but to his Grannie, Grandpa, and Cousins, free from parental restraint, he could freely deliver his soul. His mind was stored with the legends of his country, its romance and poetry, and, strong Covenanters as were the Watts for generations, tales of the Martyrs were not wanting. The heather was on fire within Jamie's breast. But where got you all that perferidum Scotorum, my wee mannie-that store of precious nutriment that is to become part of yourself and remain in the core of your being to the end, hallowing and elevating your life with ever-increasing power? Not at the grammar school we trow. No school but one can instil that, where rules the one best teacher you will ever know, genius though you be the school kept at your mother's knee. Such mothers as Watt had are the appointed trainers of genius, and make men good and great, if the needed spark be there to enkindle: "Kings they "make gods, and meaner subjects kings."
We have another story of Watt's childhood that proclaims the coming man. Precocious children are said rarely to develop far in later years, but Watt was pre-eminently a precocious child, and of this several proofs are related. A friend looking at the child of six said to his father, "You ought to "send your boy to a public school, and not allow "him to trifle away his time at home." "Look how "he is occupied before you condemn him," said the father. He was trying to solve a problem in geometry. His mother had taught him drawing, and with this he was captivated. A few toys were given him, which were constantly in use. Often he took them to pieces, and out of the parts sometimes constructed new ones, a source of great delight. In this way he employed and amused himself in the many long days during which he was confined to the house by ill health.
It is at this stage the steam and kettle story takes its rise. Mrs. Campbell, Watt's cousin and constant companion, recounts, in her memoranda, written in 1798:
Sitting one evening with his aunt, Mrs. Muirhead, at the teatable, she said: "James Watt, I never saw such an idle boy; take a book or employ yourself usefully; for the last hour you have not spoken one word, but taken off the lid of that kettle and put it on again, holding now a cup and now a silver spoon over the steam, watching how it rises from the spout, and catching and connecting the drops of hot water it falls into. Are you not ashamed of spending your time in this way?"
To what extent the precocious boy ruminated upon