« IndietroContinua »
near Bristol. Mr Glanville says, “I watched him closely, inasmuch as I thought I saw something in him which seemed to distinguish him from the mass of common boyhood. This induced me to give special attention to him, and, as far as I was able, to bring out and direct his powers. There was a character about him, even then, which indicated good in the future. . . . . He had mind, -not very well balanced, nor always easily controlled, but inquiring, earnest, persevering, and determined to improve. He was diligent and painstaking in whatever engaged his attention or suited his tastes. His quickness and thoughtfulness shewed that he had abilities, which only required to be guided into proper
channel, to make him a useful man. He was intended and educated for secular employ, and he had an encouraging prospect before him, and many facilities for obtaining worldly prosperity. But he soon manifested a distaste for business; it was too monotonous and mechanical; he wanted something more exciting and intellectual. I was called upon to use my influence with him for the purpose of urging him to throw his energies more fully into the duties of his trade. This I did, both by writing and speaking; but it was of no use: he would be a doctor, and not a plane-manufacturer. All the money he could procure, and all the hours he could spare, were given to studies bearing on the medical profession. At length, he resolved to leave business, and sacrifice the solid gain for what appeared to his friends the doubtful success of a professional course; and, in directing his attention to surgery, he had to encounter many difficulties, and to work against all sorts of disadvantage.”
We have always regarded it as the heroic incident in the history of the lamented Dr Hope, of London, that, with a strong repugnance to medical studies, but in deference to a father's wishes, he not only selected medicine as his pursuit, but prosecuted it so vigorously as to distance all his coevals. Gladly would we have recorded the converse achievement in the outset of our own hero's career: for we know not any finer feature of character than an intense dutifulness, nor any sublimer incident than the self-sacrifice to which dutiful feeling has prompted. At such noble acts of self-conquest we shall not arrive till somewhat later in this narrative; and meanwhile we must describe the subject of our biography as he was, and which is much the same as other ardent and impulsive young men have been.
An uncle in Westminster had acquired a reputation in making carpenters' planes, and his thriving business he bequeathed to his nephew, on condition that the profits of the first ten years should be shared with his sisters. It was a kind arrangement, and gave the young man a good opportunity to make his own fortune, and to provide for his father's family. But he had other aspirations. His older brother voyaged betwixt England and India as the surgeon of the Walmer Castle and the Owen Glendower; and Richard, too, must needs be a surgeon. In his medical mania it is likely that he was haunted by the brilliant precedent of the Hunters, and, with youthful enthusiasm, he would recall the example of the young journeyman who quitted the carpenter's bench to become the prince of anatomists, and the collector of a world-famed museum. But Rheece and Richard Williams were not destined to repeat the romance of William Hunter and his brother John. Rheece died at Madras, a generous and noble-hearted young man; and for Richard, God had provided some better thing than scientific reputation.
This professional bias was aided by a strong turn for letters. Our friend delighted in reading books, and sometimes dreamed of making them. And in a learned pursuit he doubtless reckoned on a large amount of literary leisure. This is frequently a mistake. A clergyman without a congregation, a barrister without briefs, and a physician without patients, have abundance of leisure; but, in that case, there is great danger of their ceasing to be literary. On the other hand, a minister who enters heartily into his work, a lawyer or a doctor who prospers in his practice, has as little time to spare for his own special likings as a manufacturer or a merchant; and, when the daily demand on his energies is answered, we question if he will retain an equal amount of zest and spirit. In other
words, should any of our readers be employed in making planes, or in selling or using them, and should they at the same time be sighing after better opportunity to read great authors,—we know not any road more royal than their present calling. Most likely, even now it allows them an hour or two for mental improvement or intellectual relaxation; and, if they are diligent in their business, there is no more legitimate way of employing their savings than in purchasing instalments of leisure for their favorite pursuits.
By great exertions, Mr Williams accomplished a medical curriculum. He studied at University College, London, and at the London Hospital; and having been initiated in the practical details of his profession by a cousin in Oxfordshire, he was able to pass his examination in May 1841, when twentysix years
For some time he acted as assistant to various medical gentlemen at Norwich and elsewhere; and, eventually, his brother-in-law and sister, Mr and Mrs Hill, being resident in Burslem, Staffordshire, sent him an invitation to come and settle beside them. That invitation he accepted; and by the success with which his first cases were treated, he soon attracted notice, and became a popular practitioner, with extensive employment. For, with an irreproachable character, passionately addicted to the noble science which was now his calling, carrying a prepossession in his pleasant countenance and gentle manners, prompt, punctual, and affectionately interested in his patients, and, in a profession humane and generous beyond all others, distinguished by his liberality and disinterestedness, it is not wonderful that he soon became a favorite, and saw opening before him a field of abundant occupation.
During all this interval, however, there was no religion in his virtue. Warm-hearted and manly, he was not devout; and, amidst all his solicitude for the bodily health of his neighbours, the salvation of their souls or of his own had never cost him a thought. With an ardent and enthusiastic temperament, he had no love for his heavenly Friend, and no sympathy with that philanthropy which seeks the eternal welfare of its objects.
One Lord's day, a friend returning from public worship called on him, and found him in his surgery reading a newspaper. His friend asked him if this were a right employment of God's day. There was something of rebuke in the reply: “ Were my mind, like yours, satisfied that Christianity is true, I would embrace it with all my soul, and I would live accordingly.” His visitor felt that he was sincere, and could only regret that, to a nature so energetic, and, in many respects, so ingenuous, the gospel was nothing more than a cunning fable or a cabalistic formula.