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William Brockedon

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Published : 1 Article
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Brockedon, William I Brockenden l, 1787-1854, painter, author, inventor. F.R.S. Attended school in Tomes, Devon. For five years after death of his father, carried on father's business of watchmaker, meanwhile devoting free time to drawing. Studied at Royal Academy, 1809-1815; exhibited at Royal Academy and at British Institution; elected member of Academy of Rome and of Florence. His career as author resulted from his interest in determining route taken by Hannibal across the Alps (his conclusion: the pass of the Little St. Bernard); in 1824 made first excursion for this purpose (had previously made excursions to the Alps in 1821 and 1822); during following years crossed the Alps nearly sixty times. Published, 1827-29, Illustrations of the Passes of the Alps, both letterpress and drawings by him; Journals of Excursions in the Alps, 1833; Italy, Classical, Historical, and Picturesque, 1842-44. Also edited or wrote parts of other travel books. Contributed to Literary Gazette, Fraser's, Blackwood's. Throughout his life was interested in mechanical and scientific matters; devoted later years largely to this interest; patented various of his inventions, as for corks, wadding for firearms, use of compressed lead dust in pencil making, application of vulcanized India rubber to manufactures (Brockedon coined the word "vulcanization").

     Brockedon and Dickens were acquainted. In a letter to Wills, July 17, 1851, Dickens wrote that he was glad of "Brockedon's note" (apparently the H.W. contribution), and added of Brockedon: "He knows a good deal about some curious places – is very ingenious – and may be very useful" – "useful," apparently, as a contributor to H.W. Dickens's letter to Wills, July 27, 1851, mentioning his regret that "the Brockedon business" should have arisen does not make clear what that business was. "I have written to the wrathful being," wrote Dickens, "with a view to mollification." In 1853 Brockedon pointed out to Dickens what he thought an error in Dodd's "India-Rubber." 
     Brockedon's H.W. contribution ["Chip: Chamouny" III, 451-52. Aug. 2, 1851] is a protest against the desecration of Chamonix by the establishment there of a gaming casino. The article states that the writer had first visited the Alpine village in 1822 and had "since been there five or six times." Dickens's reprimand to Wills (July 27, 1851) for having deleted from the article "that allusion to the Hôtel de Londres" is not clear. The hotel, as also its proprietors, is several times mentioned in the article with high commendation; perhaps the mentions had originally been more extended. 
     Several references to Brockedon and his work appeared in H.W. The article "Arcadia" contained an oblique reference to his painting of Alpine scenes. "Penny Wisdom" and "Going a Little Farther" explained the process that he had "happily hit upon" for making "most excellent blacklead pencils." "The Father of Caoutchouc" discussed Brockedon's association with Thomas Hancock in devising applications of vulcanized India rubber to manufactures, specifically the bringing to "real perfection" of Brockedon's corks. 

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971. 

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