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though it be at the expense of a little trouble . There are many persons who would flatter their love of ease , till they can turn round upon them and say , * Cut it down ; why cumbereth it the ground . ' Before I close my present lecture ,, allow me to mention three facts , I lately learnt from the secretary of the Manchester Mechanics' Institution , that in that town , of 190 , 000 inhabitants , not more than from three to four hundred members are in the habit of meetin ' g at the Institution . I learnt also from the secretary of the Birmingham Mechanics' Institution , that in that town , of 150 , 000 inhabitants , only 150 or 200 members are in
the habit of meeting at the Institution . Is this want of interest in science and literature accounted for by the fact , that in both instances the Mechanics' Institution is discouraged by the cleroy ? I would rather believe this lukewarmness accounted tor by lecturers not sufficiently attending to the third fact I am
about to state to you . When I asked the secretary of the Birmingham Mechanics' Institution what lectures are most popular , or , in other words , draw the largest audiences , I was not surprised to be answered that lectures given by gentlemen connected with the theatres , ( in other words , by i jood readers , ) on the dramas of Shakspeare , were always most fully attended .
This fact is worth all my reasonings . It is very desirable that much stronger food in the physical and mathematical sciences than I can pretend to offer you * should be provided for the scientific mechanic . But if Mechanics' Institutions are to produce the beneficial effects on the public mind which they are certainly capable of producing , more attention must be paid to
interest the imagination and the feelings , than the members of a scientific institution may , at first thought , consider to harmonise with their main object . But if the proper study for mankind is man ; if matter is the servant of mind ; if all sciences are subject to the political science ; and , lastly , if we desire to diffuse the physical sciences as widely as possible , we mu * c unite physics with morals , breathing a living soul into a material body .
Lectures on the physical sciences are rendered interesting and conyincing by physical experiments . The works of Shakspeare and Scott , Edgeworth and Martineau , supply what may well be
called moral experiments , and give at once spirit and evidence to the moral science . They are no more to be confounded , as causes or in effects , with false fictions , than the experiments of the chemist are to be confounded with the empiricisms of the alchemist .
* This refers to some observations on the Wo nomenclatures of electricity , ' Franklin ^ and l ) u Fay ' s , which will probably form part of a third lecture , viz . 'On the science of Words aud the science of Things . *
Diffusion of Knowledge amongst the People . 281
No . 88 . X
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), April 2, 1834, page 281, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2632/page/49/