Punch,  43 (1862), 165.

A Voice from Cambridge



Poetry, Drollery; Address, Drollery


Societies, Patronage, Meteorology, Astronomy, Natural Law, Observatories, Instruments, Measurement, Mapping, Exploration, Progress, Organic Chemistry

    A reference to the recent meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the events of the poem are set in the Cambridge Guildhall. The poem parodies the address of the association's president, Robert Willis (a version of which was published as Willis 1863), who opens by relishing the 'twenty thousand pounds' being 'lent or spent or given or lost' on such schemes as finding out 'why the lightning quivers' and 'some physical cause / That superintends all physical laws'. Goes on to outline the president's discussion of the instruments used at the Royal Observatory, Kew, notably Warren De La Rue's 'Photo-Heliograph' which the astronomer took to Spain to 'observe the eclipse', and a range of other instruments with which the observatory is 'infested'. The president then describes surveys undertaken of the British coast and distant British colonies, all done 'Very magnetically, / Hydrotheoretically', pauses to reflect on the 'progress, / Of Science', Charles-Eugène Delaunay's imminent book on the moon, and then outlines James Glaisher's heroic ascent to the 'starry heights of heaven', and the way in which 'Chemistry thrives' on the discovery of new hydrocarbon compounds. Also notes John S Russell's connection of the 'force and form / Between a model ship in a storm' and large waves, and William Fairbairn's report of prodigious firing of artillery at Shoeburyness (a version of which was published as Fairbairn 1863). Ends by noting how the International Exhibition demonstrates the virtues of 'competition / In things of mechanical power', the increasingly dramatic speed of new locomotives.

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