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PLATE GLASS.

Two other gentlemen occupied the railway
carriage, which, on a gusty day in December,
was conveying us towards Gravesend, via
Blackwall. One wore spectacles, by the aid
of which he was perusing a small pocket edition
of his favourite author. No sound escaped his
lips; yet, his under-jaw and his disengaged
hand moved with the solemn regularity of
an orator emitting periods of tremendous
euphony. Presently, his delight exploded in
a loud shutting up of the book and an
enthusiastic appeal to us in favour of the writings of
Dr. Samuel Johnson. "What, for example,
can be finer, gentlemen, than his account of
the origin of glass-making; in which, being
a drysalter, I take a particular interest. Let
me read the passage to you!

"But the noise of the train—"

"Sir, I can drown that."

The tone in which the Johnsonian "Sir"
was let off, left no doubt of it. Though a
small man, the reader was what his favourite
writer would have denominated a Stentor, and
what the modern school would call a Stunner.
When he re-opened the book and began to
read, the words smote the ear, as if they
had been shot out of the mouth of a cannon.
To give additional effect to the rounded
periods of his author, he waved his arm in the
air at each turn of a sentence, as if it had been
a circular saw. "Who," he recited, "when he
saw the first sand or ashes, by a casual
intenseness of heat, melted into a metalline form,
rugged with excrescences, and clouded with
impurities, would have imagined, that in this
shapeless lump lay concealed so many
conveniences of life, as would in time constitute a
great part of the happiness of the world?
Yet by some such fortuitous liquefaction
was mankind taught to procure a body at
once in a high degree solid and transparent,
which might admit the light of the sun, and
exclude the violence of the wind: which
might extend the sight of the philosopher to
new ranges of existence, and charm him at one
time with the unbounded extent of the material
creation, and at another with the endless
subordination of animal life; and, what
is yet of more importance, might supply the
decays of nature, and succour old age with
subsidiary sight. Thus was the first artificer
in glass employed, though without his own
knowledge or expectation. He was facilitating
and prolonging the enjoyment of light,
enlarging the avenues of science, and
conferring the highest and most lasting pleasures;
he was enabling the student to contemplate
nature, and the beauty to behold herself.
This passion for—"

"Blackwall, gents! Blackwall, ladies!
Boat for Gravesend!" We should, unquestionably,
have been favoured with the rest of
the ninth number of the "Rambler" (in which
the foregoing passage occurs) but for these
announcements.

"There is one thing, however," said the
little man with the loud voice, as we walked
from the platform to the pier, "which I cannot
understand. What does the illustrious essayist
mean by the 'fortuitous liquefaction' of the
sand and ashes. Was glass found out by
accident?"

Luckily, a ray of school-day classics
enlightened a corner of our memory, and we
mentioned the well-known story, in Pliny,
that some Phoenician merchants, carrying
saltpetre to the mouth of the river Belus,
went ashore; and, placing some lumps of the
cargo under their kettles to cook food, the heat
of the fire fused the nitre, which ran among
the sand of the shore. The cooks finding
this union to produce a translucent substance,
discovered the art of making glass.

"That," said our other companion, holding
his hat to prevent the wind from blowing it
aboard the Gravesend steamer (which was
not to start for ten minutes), "has been the
stock tale of all writers on the subject, from
Pliny down to Ure; but, Sir Gardiner
Wilkinson has put it out of the power of future
authors to repeat it. That indefatigable
haunter of Egyptian tombs discovered minute
representations of glass-blowing, painted on
tombs of the time of Orsirtasin the First,
some sixteen hundred years before the date
of Pliny's story. Indeed, a glass bead, bearing
the name of a king who lived fifteen hundred
years before Christ, was found in another
tomb by Captain Henvey, the specific gravity
of which is precisely that of English crown-
glass."

"You seem to know all about it!" exclaimed
the loud-voiced man.

"Being a director of a plate-glass company

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