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the Royal Italian Opera from which myself and
my convert were rarely absent during the


LITTLE more than forty years ago, when living
in Nottingham, the writer frequently observed,
passing to and fro in the streets a grave, middlesized,
middle-aged man, having something
sufficiently peculiar in his costume to mark him out
from the mass. He was, as the writer recollects
him, of a muscular but active build, of a somewhat
dark complexion, dark hair becoming grizzled,
face-lines good, earnest, and expressive,
but with a solemnity in them that betokened a
mind seriously engaged in some important object.
He wore a hat, broad in the brim and low in the
crown, and altogether gave the impression that he
was a half-pay naval lieutenant. In a while,
circumstances brought the writer into the company
of the naval lieutenant, and suddenly he
developed into the agent of a great glass manufacturing
firm, and something more. He had what the
superficial world calls a crotchet, a hobby, and
so steers clear of it. He had a notion which,
at that time of dayonly forty and two or three
years agoappeared to the public about as wild
as a scheme for walking up-stairs to the moon:
namely, a scheme to supersede stage-coaches,
stage-waggons, and canal-boats, and to carry
people and goods with great despatch, wherever
they wanted to go, by the aid of iron rails and
travelling steam-engines.

Here one is obliged to pause and reflect how
difficult it is now, to bring back the sense of the
supremely ridiculous in such an idea. Now,
when people are daily and hourly careering
about in long trains of little comfortable houses,
with glass windows, cushioned seats, chauffe-
pieds, anti-Macassars, and often carpeted floors,
especially in foreign trains; careering in every
direction all over the civilised world, and wherever
that world extends, even to Moscow, India,
America, and Australiato imagine that forty
years ago the realisation of this familiar state of
things was treated as insanity, is very difficult.
Yet here was this imagined half-pay naval
lieutenant, but real glass commissioner, struggling
and morally fighting to impress this idea on the
world, and especially on the leaders and teachers
of the world, parliament men, scientific men,
literary men, and pre-eminently amongst the
great journalistsand the man who simply
wanted people to believe in such now palpable
and common-place things as railroads was
denounced as a maniac; a monomaniac, with one
monstrous and impossible idea.

What said the Edinburgh Review of this
Thomas Gray, with his one idea? " Put him
in a strait-jacket." What said the Quarterly
Review? " Such persons are not worth our
notice." What said the enlightened people of
England? Elderly gentlemen were of opinion
that they should not be able to cross the railroads
without the certainty of being run over; young
gentlemen, that the personal conveniences and
comforts of their foxes and pheasants would be
seriously invaded. Ladies thought that cows
would not graze within view and sound of
locomotive trains, and that the sudden and formidable
appearance of them would be attended with
premature consequences to bipeds as well as
quadrupeds. Farmers were quite agreed that
the race of horses must at once be extinguished,
and that oats and hay need not, indeed, be
grown, for there would be nothing to eat them.
Artists declared that straight lines of railroad,
and smoking, fizzing engines, would annihilate
the picturesque; poets, that they would render
the country intolerable. Wordsworth wrote
inspiredly against them, and everybody said
that could such things be realised they would
be the most unbearable of nuisances, and, in
fact, if people did make such things, nobody
would encourage them by travelling by them.
That was the condition of Thomas Gray, after
he published a book on the subject in 1820, and
such was the language that he was greeted with
from high and low, from lateral and collateral,
from neighbour and stranger. But Thomas
Gray had got hold of a great fact, though yet
unborn as it regarded the world at large, and
scouted and snorted at by the whole world of
engineers. Engineers were then all intent on
devising a scheme for making tolerable
highroadsthese were infamous; but Macadam was
already on foot, and about to show them the
way out of that dilemma. But as to railroads
for steam-trains, they treated the idea as sheer
lunacy; and, says Gray, p. 109, " wasted their
skill in bolstering up a systemthat of roads
which mocked all their exertions." When the
road system fell into the hands of the clearer-
sighted Macadam, they then turned their
speculations to canals, and, says Gray, " the infatuation
of many of them was so great, as to cause
them to recommend railroads (tram-roads) as
mere collateral branches of communication to

Gray continued to dilate, whenever he could
get a hearing, on the magnificent advantages to
be derived from a system of railways with steam
trains extending over the whole kingdom, carrying
people rapidly, cheaply, and comfortably,
carrying your letters at almost winged speed,
sending your fish in a few hours from almost
any port or part of the coast to the metropolis,
instead of having it spoiled in its then slow
transit by stage-waggon. These, and a thousand
other wonders, his system of railroads was to
perform; and the public lifted their eyebrows,
and voted him a most consummate bore!

Mr. Smiles, in his Life of George Stephenson,
speaking of several persons who advocated
partial lines of railroads with steam trains, says,
p. 168 : "Thomas Gray, of Nottingham, was a
much more sanguine and speculative man. He
was not a mechanic, nor an inventor, nor a coal-
owner, but an enthusiastic believer in the
wonderful powers of the railroad system. Being a
native of Leeds, he had, when a boy, seen

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