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March 5th

Born: John Collins, F.P.S., accountant, 1624, Woodeaton; Dr. George Stanhope, Dean of Canterbury, 1660, Hartshorne.

Died: Odoacer, King of Italy, A.D. 493: Alphonse II (of Portugal), 1223, Alcobaca: Antonio Allegri Correggio, painter, 1534, Correggio; Henri I, Prince of Conde, 1588; Pope Clement VIII, 1605; James Duke of Hamilton, 1649, beheaded, Old Palace Yard; Arthur, Lord Capell, beheaded, 1649; Henry Earl of Holland, beheaded, 1649; Bishop Beveridge, 1708; the Rev. Dr. Philip Francis, 1773, Bath; Dr. Thomas Arne, musical composer, 1778; the Marquis de la Place, philosopher, 1827; Alexander Volta (Voltaism), 1827, Como; Dr. Lant Carpenter, miscellaneous writer, 1840; M. J. B. Orfila, physician and chemist, 1853.

Feast Day: Saints Adrian and Eubulus, of Palestine, martyrs, 309. St. Kiaran, of Ireland, bishop, 4th century. St. Roger, a Franciscan, 1236.


Dr. Thomas Augustine Arne, with whose lank features we are familiar through the characteristic portrait of him by Bartolozzi, was the son of an upholsterer, in King-street, Covent-garden, at whose house were lodged the Indian kings, mentioned in the Spectator as visiting England in the reign of Queen Anne. Young Arne was educated at Eton, and intended for the profession of the law: but progress in that or any other such pursuit was impossible. Every energy of the young man's mind was absorbed in music. The father having positively forbidden him this study, he secreted a spinnet in his room, and, muffling the strings, practised in the night, while the rest of the family were asleep. It is also related that the youth would steal in the disguise of a livery into the servants' gallery of the opera-house. Nevertheless, he served a three years' clerkship to the law. In the meantime, he took lessons on the violin of Festing, under whom he made rapid progress, of which his father had no suspicion, till going to a concert one evening, he was astonished to see his son playing the first fiddle most skilfully. The elder Arne now gave up resistance, and consented to his son teaching his sister, Mrs. Cibber, to sing; and for her he set Addison's opera of Rosamond.

In 1738, the young musician established his reputation by his Comus, which he composed in the back parlour of a house in Craven-buildings, Wych-street. The melody of Arne at this time, and of his Vauxhall-gardens songs afterwards, forms an era in English music, and was long the standard of' perfection at our theatres and public gardens. But the work which has most contributed to his fame is his Artaxerxes, translated from Metastasio's Artacerses, which with the talents of Tenducci, Peretti, and Arne's pupil, Miss Brent, had very great success: he sold the copyright for sixty guineas, then considered a large sum for such a property. Its general melody has been analysed as neither Italian nor English, but an agreeable mixture of Italian, English, and Scots. His music for the dramatic songs of Shakespeare attained great popularity, which it still enjoys. Of his song of 'Rule, Britannia,' it may be said that it would have preserved and endeared his name with the English nation throughout all time, though he had never composed another. Altogether, he arranged for the stage upwards of thirty musical pieces. He died March 5, 1778, and was buried in the church of St. Paul, Covent-garden. He was a singular instance of that predestinate taste, which is to be accounted for only by peculiar organization, the existence of which, among other less splendid instances, has been since confirmed by Crotch, Himmel, and Mozart, Arne's was, indeed, the pure and unbought love of the art, generated by the pleasurable perception of sweet sounds.


It must have been an anxious day for the late Robert Stephenson when he first sent a locomotive engine through the wonderful Britannia tubular bridge over the Menai Straits,—an anxious day, but probably not a distrustful one: for he, like all our great engineers, knew his own strength, and relied on the soundness of the principles which had guided him.

Assuredly it was no small difficulty which he had been called upon to overcome. While the Chester and Holyhead Railway was being constructed, Stephenson pondered how it should cross the Menai. Telford's beautiful suspension bridge being deemed too slight for the purpose, he planned a tube or hollow girder, through which a train might pass as through a tunnel. To make such a tunnel of sheet iron, stiff enough to resist any tendency to bending, was a formidable task. The Menai Strait, at the point selected for the crossing, is about eleven hundred feet wide at high water: in the middle is a rock called the Britannia rock, rising a few feet above high water level. Stephenson resolved to erect a pier of masonry on the rock, so as to break the span of the strait into two portions. To ensure manageable dimensions, it was determined that there should he two tubes, one for the up and one for the down trains. A masonry tower was to support the Caernarvon end of the tubes, and another to support the Anglesea end. There would thus therefore be four separate tubes, forming two when joined end to end.

Mighty were the engineering agencies brought to bear upon the work, and long was the period during which the operations continued. Should the tube be of cast iron or wrought? Should the cross section be square, circular, or oval? Before these questions could be properly answered, the skill of Stephenson, Fairbairn, Hodgkinson, and other eminent engineers was taxed to the utmost, and the company spent a large sum of money in preliminary experiments. Years rolled on: and it was not until 1850, that the trains could cross the bridge that was commenced in 1845. There was the Britannia Tower to build, a large mass of masonry higher than the Monument near London-bridge, and containing twenty thousand tons of stone. There were the Caernarvon and Anglesea Towers to construct, on nearly as massive a scale. There were the vast abutments further inland: for which Mr. Thomas, whose carvings in stone at the new Houses of Parliament display so much skill, was employed to sculpture four lions couch ant twenty-five feet long, majestic in their colossal repose. But the tubes were the most important achievement: each tube is a hollow trunk varying from twenty-five to thirty feet in height, and about fifteen feet wide. The top and bottom are cellular, to insure increased strength. All parts alike, sides and cells, are formed of very thick sheet or plate iron, strengthened with angle-irons, and riveted. Never, perhaps, was there such another job of riveting as this: more than two million rivets were driven red hot into holes punched in the plates! Four gigantic tubes were thus built up piece by piece, on platforms ranged along the Caernarvon shore.

Probably the greatest lift, in a mechanical sense, ever effected, was the lifting of these tubes —each of which weighed nearly two thousand tons, and had to be raised a clear height of one hundred feet. Each tube was removed from its platform to eight floating pontoons, and was towed upon them to its place between the towers. Then, by a most extraordinary combination of chains, pulleys, hydraulic-machines, and steam-power, each tube was steadily raised inch by inch, until at length it reached its proper elevation, where suitable supports for its ends were provided. The Menai Strait had never before known such a holiday as that which marked the day selected forraising the first of the tubes. Engineers of eminence came from all parts of the United Kingdom, and from foreign countries, to mark critically Stephenson's great achievements; directors and shareholders came to witness a work on which so many hundred thousand pounds of their capital had been expended; while curiosity-seekers, congregating from the neighbouring counties, swelled the number of those who lined both sides of the strait. Amid the busy hum of preparations, and movements which could be understood only by those versed in engineering science, one figure was above or apart from all others—it was Robert Stephenson, directing and controlling the work of vast bodies of mechanics and labourers. It was a long day, a day of eighteen hours' continuous work, to raise each tube to its height of a hundred feet. Many may guess, but none can know, the feelings that agitated the mind of the great engineer on this day. Perhaps ` agitate ' is not the proper word, he was too self-possessed to be agitated: but the ordeal must nevertheless have been a terrible one —seeing that a mishap might bring the whole enterprise to ruin.

And when, many months afterwards, the tubes were properly adjusted end to end, and a continuous tunnel made, the passage of the first locomotive through it was another great event to be recorded in the history of the mighty Britannia-bridge. Each portion of tube had shewn itself firm and stiff enough to bear bravely the lifting process: but would the tubes, as a continuous tunnel, bear the rush and pressure, the rattle and vibration, of a ponderous locomotive? The 5th of March 1850, was the day selected for practically solving this problem: and the solution bore out in every way the calculations of the engineer. Three locomotives, of the heaviest character known to the narrow gauge, were chained end to end. They were decked with the flags of all nations. Robert Stephenson acted as driver of the leading locomotive, and other men of science stood or sat wherever it was most convenient. This weight of ninety tons was driven to the centre of one of the tubes, where it was allowed to remain stationary, with its full dead weight, for a few minutes: and the same took place on the return trip. Then a coal-train of three hundred tons was driven through, and then another train of two hundred tons was allowed to rest with all its weight, for two hours, in the centre of the tube. The plates and rivets bore the test triumphantly: and thus was completed a modern wonder of the world.

March 6th